Τρίτη, 13 Αυγούστου 2019

United Nations: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

United Nations

Climate change is now affecting every country on every continent. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives, costing people, communities and countries dearly today and even more tomorrow. Weather patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, weather events are becoming more extreme and greenhouse gas emissions are now at their highest levels in history. Without action, the world’s average surface temperature is likely to surpass 3 degrees centigrade this century. The poorest and most vulnerable people are being affected the most.

Affordable, scalable solutions are now available to enable countries to leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient economies. The pace of change is quickening as more people are turning to renewable energy and a range of other measures that will reduce emissions and increase adaptation efforts. Climate change, however, is a global challenge that does not respect national borders. It is an issue that requires solutions that need to be coordinated at the international level to help developing countries move toward a low-carbon economy.

To strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, countries adopted the Paris Agreement at the COP21 in Paris, which went into force in November of 2016. In the agreement, all countries agreed to work to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees centigrade. As of April 2018, 175 parties had ratified the Paris Agreement and 10 developing countries had submitted their first iteration of their national adaptation plans for responding to climate change.

Climate Action Summit 2019

The Secretary-General will convene a Climate Action Summit in September 2019 to bring climate action to the top of the international agenda. Mr. Luis Alfonso de Alba, a former Mexican diplomat, will be his Special Envoy to lead its preparations.

The Summit will focus on the heart of the problem – the sectors that create the most emissions and the areas where building resilience could make the biggest difference – as well as provide leaders and partners the opportunity to demonstrate real climate action and showcase their ambition.

To read about the commitments that regions, cities, businesses, investors and civil society pledged during the Global Climate Action Summit in California, September 2018, click here.

Facts and Figures

As of April 2018, 175 parties had ratified the Paris Agreement and 168 parties had communicated their first nationally determined contributions to the UN framework convention on Climate Change Secretariat.
    As of April 2018, 10 developing countries had successfully completed and submitted their first iteration of their national adaptation plans for responding to climate change.
    Developed country parties continue to make progress towards the goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion annually by 2020 for mitigation actions.

Thanks to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change we know:

    From 1880 to 2012, average global temperature increased by 0.85°C. To put this into perspective, for each 1 degree of temperature increase, grain yields decline by about 5 per cent. Maize, wheat and other major crops have experienced significant yield reductions at the global level of 40 megatons per year between 1981 and 2002 due to a warmer climate.
    Oceans have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished and sea level has risen.From 1901 to 2010, the global average sea level rose by 19 cm as oceans expanded due to warming and ice melted. The Arctic’s sea ice extent has shrunk in every successive decade since 1979, with 1.07 million km² of ice loss every decade
    Given current concentrations and on-going emissions of greenhouse gases, it is likely that by the end of this century, the increase in global temperature will exceed 1.5°C compared to 1850 to 1900 for all but one scenario. The world’s oceans will warm and ice melt will continue. Average sea level rise is predicted as 24 – 30cm by 2065 and 40-63cm by 2100. Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions are stopped
    Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have increased by almost 50 per cent since 1990
    Emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades
    It is still possible, using a wide array of technological measures and changes in behavior, to limit the increase in global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels
    Major institutional and technological change will give a better than even chance that global warming will not exceed this threshold.

Κυριακή, 11 Αυγούστου 2019

Mary: The Blessing of All Generations

Ancient faith / Glory 2 God for all things

In my childhood, it was not unusual to hear someone ask, “Who are your people?” It was a semi-polite, Southernism designed to elicit essential information about a person’s social background. The assumption was that you, at best, could only be an example of your “people.” It ignored the common individualism of the wider culture, preferring the more family or clan-centered existence of an older time. It was possible to be “good people” who had fallen on hard times, just as it was possible to be “bad people” who were flourishing. Good people were always to be preferred.
I am aware of the darker elements of this Southern instinct so foreign to today’s mainstream culture. I am also aware that within it, there is an inescapable part of reality: human beings never enter this world without baggage. The baggage is an inheritance, both cultural and biological that shapes the ground we walk on and the challenges we will inevitably confront. Fr. Alexander Schmemann is reported to have said that the spiritual life consists in “how we deal with what we’ve been dealt.” In some families, it seems that no matter how many times the deck is shuffled, the same hand (or close to it) appears.
The Scriptures are rife with this element of our reality. It is a story of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, tribal destiny and inherited blessings. Two of the gospels give a chapter to rehearse the genealogy of Christ. Modern thought wants to imagine each human being entering the world as a blank slate whose life will be formed and shaped by their desires and choices. This is our imaginative version of freedom and we work to maximize its reality.
Nevertheless, human experience continues to be doggedly familial. Those who do family therapy carefully ask questions about the generations that have gone before. The battles of our lives are not about theory, but the cold hard truth of what has been given to us.
The Scriptures relate the stories of families, including their tragedies and horrific crimes. No Southern novelist ever did more than echo the iconic behaviors of Biblical failure.
This familial treatment is intentional and tracks the truth of our existence. There is never a pain as deep as that inflicted by someone who is supposed to love you.  Such injuries echo through the years and the generations. The face that stares back at us in the mirror is easily a fractal of someone whose actions power our own insanity. We can hate a parent, only to be haunted by their constant presence in us.

 Orthodox women in Malawi (from here)

This, of course, is only the negative, darker side of things. Blessings echo in us as well. In the delusion of modern individuality we blithely assume that we act alone in all we do. Life is so much more complicated!
What I am certain of, in the midst of all this, is that our struggle against sin and the besetting issues of our lives is never just about ourselves. If we inherit a burden within our life, so our salvation, our struggles with that burden, involve not only ourselves but those who have gone before as well as those who come after. We struggle as the “Whole Adam” (in the phrase of St. Silouan).
There is an Athonite saying: “A monk heals his family for seven generations.” When I first heard this, my thought was, “In which direction?” The answer, I think, is every direction. We are always healing the family tree as we embrace the path of salvation, monk or layman. Our lives are just that connected.
When the Virgin Mary sings her hymn of praise to God, she says, “All generations will call me blessed.” This expresses far more than the sentiment that she will be famous (how shallow). It has echoes of God’s word to Abraham, “In you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). It is in the Offspring of Mary that the word to Abraham is fulfilled. In the Scriptures, God is pleased to be named the “God of Abraham.” That His name is tied to that of a human being brings no offense. Indeed, paradise itself is called the “bosom of Abraham.” It is right and proper that Christians should see the same treatment in the Virgin, the one in whom all these things are fulfilled.
“All generations” is a term that includes everyone – not just those who would come after her. For the salvation of the human race, in all places and at all times, is found only in Jesus, the Offspring of Mary. She is “Theotokos,” the “Birthgiver of God.” Mary is exalted in the bosom of Abraham.
When I look in the mirror these days, I see the unmistakable reflection of my father. No doubt, his reflection is seen elsewhere in my life, both for good and ill. I’m aware that some of my struggles are with “my daddy’s demons.” Of course, my vision is limited to just a few generations. I see my own struggles reflected in the lives of my children (for which I often want to apologize). I do not see the link that runs throughout all generations – throughout all the offspring of Adam – it is too large to grasp. What I do see, however, is the singular moment, the linchpin of all generations that is the Mother of God. In her person we see all generations gathered together. Her “be it unto me according to your word” resounds in the heart of every believer, uniting them to her heart whose flesh unites us to God.
Across the world, the myriad generations of Christians have sung ever since:
My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.
For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
To which we add:
More honorable than cherubim,
And more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim,
Without corruption you gave birth to God the Word,
True Theotokos, we magnify you!
We are her people. Glory to God!

The Scandal of the Transfiguration

The Transfiguration of the Lord, 
icon by Theophanes the Greek (1408)

Ancient faith / Glory 2 God for all things

My Archbishop (Alexander Golitzin) shares the story of a young man whom he taught some years ago. He was Orthodox from Estonia. He grew up in the Soviet era and had come to hate all things Russian, including the Orthodox Church. Nevertheless, he saw an Orthodox procession in the streets of his city one year, a procession that included the Russian bishop (whom he also hated and believed to be a KGB agent). However, he saw the bishop surrounded by light. It was an experience that led him into the Orthodox faith. You might hate the man, and the Church as well. But the undeniable glory of God revealed what his hatred could not see.
My bishop’s point in sharing the story was not to exonerate the Russian Church from any wrong-doing, or cooperation with wrong-doing. Nor was it to exonerate the bishop involved and declare him holy. It was a story about the glory of God and its place and work despite our faults and failures. The 12 apostles cast out demons, healed the sick and cleansed lepers. We are nowhere told that Judas did none of those things. Doubtless, he did (which makes his betrayal all the greater).
There was a heresy in the early Church that denied the efficacy of the sacraments if they were performed by sinners. The debate was largely about those who, under the pressure of persecution, had in any way denied their faith or yielded to the requirements of the pagan state. It is an easy line of thought to maintain. If we are commanded to be holy, surely there are consequences for failure to observe the commandment. There are indeed consequences within the canons of the Church, but those consequences do not include an inefficacy of the sacraments.

The scandal of the Incarnation, God-becoming-man, is the seeming contradiction of the utterly transcendent God and the particularity and limits of human existence. It is a scandal whose errors  run in two directions.
First, there is an assumption that God is so displeased with sin that He can have nothing to do with it, or that sin somehow nullifies the work of God. Second, there is an equally odious belief that human beings, in their observance of the commandments, are ever righteous enough to actually be compatible with true holiness. The first is an error about God, the second an error about human beings.
I’m always troubled to hear “there is no grace outside the Church.” I can’t fathom what such a statement means. Since the entire universe is sustained by the grace of God, I can only assume a sort of heresy of secularism by such a statement – the notion that anything can exist apart from God’s grace. For His own mysterious reasons, God even sustains the fallen angels by His grace. If it were not so, they would cease to exist. Only God has existence in and of Himself.
I can say “there is no grace outside the Church” only if I also say that everything in all of creation is inside the Church. In fact, I believe this to be true. The Church came into existence when God said, “Let there be light.” The sacraments do not make us to be what we are not, but reveal us to be what we truly are. Baptism and Chrismation are indeed required of those coming to Holy Communion, for they are fundamental realities in the medicine of immortality and the path of life God has given us. But the person who is Baptized does not somehow become other than what they are. They become more fully human, more truly what they were created to be. “The Holy Spirit completes that which is lacking,” it is said in our prayers.

There are boundaries which we describe as “the Church,” but this meaning is being used to specify that which is identified with the fullness of life in Christ. “Church”, in this usage, is “that which is reconciled.” St. Paul says that the end of all things is that they be “gathered together in one in Christ Jesus.” This is the Church, in the end.
Too frequently we speak of the Church in denominational terms, in which we speak of people who are reconciled in the fullness of Orthodoxy as though their “membership” constituted the whole of the Church. But St. Paul extends the Church to “all things.” Thus, the grass and the trees (and certainly the flour and the wine) are being gathered together into Christ. The Eucharist is not a gathering meant to exclude everything else. It is a gathering that represents everything else. “Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee.” What is there within all of creation that is not God’s own? Indeed, the members of the Church who gather, are themselves but the “first fruits” of the whole Adam.
And so we have the reality of glowing bishops who might be hated in Estonia (just as many other bishops might be hated elsewhere). The transfiguration (for such was the scene in that procession) of God’s creation is simply shocking to us. It is a manifestation of the love of God that ignores all scandal, except that which does not love. It is a transfiguration that gives light and that burns.
Many take a cold comfort in the fact that the transfiguring light of God burns some. However, it most often burns the eyes of those who judge the fitness of those transfigured. They become blind in this very manner.
The Transfiguration of Christ would generally be deemed to be free of scandal. He appeared on the Holy Mount with Moses and Elijah – how could the disciples not rejoice. But the text describes a scandal.
As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:29-31)
Christ, in turn, spoke to the disciples about His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem, and Peter rebuked Him! The great scandal is always the scandal of the Cross. There is no path to true union with God that does not go through the Cross. This is true finally of all those who are transfigured as well as for all who hope to ever see a transfiguration.
It is of note that the Greek beneath this translation does not say that Christ was speaking with Moses and Elijah about His “decease.” The text calls it His “exodus.” It is not a casual word choice. His journey into death is the Great Exodus, the path through the Red Sea that drowns the mystical Pharaoh. It is the Lord’s Passover.
That Passover is the path to transfiguration. Moses himself, after the Passover, leads the people to a different holy mountain. There he received the Law written by the very finger of God. When he came down from the mountain his face was transfigured and the people were afraid to look at him – and asked him to please wear a veil.
In Christ the veil is removed, except for those who wear a veil covering their heart (2Cor. 3). But God is so merciful, He sometimes removes the veil so that angry young men on the streets of Estonia (which is everywhere) may see His glory and live.

Τετάρτη, 7 Αυγούστου 2019

Deification - The Uncreated Light

Orthodox Way of Life
Ελληνικά για το θέμα: Βλέποντας το Θεό
Deification is an enhypostatic* and direct illumination which has no beginning but appears in those worthy as something exceeding their comprehension.  It is indeed a mystical union with God, beyond mind and reason in the age when creatures will no longer know corruption. - 
Saint Maximus the Confessor
Deification is most often expressed as involving the "Uncreated Light."

Fr. Sophrony says,
This Light penetrates us with the power of God, we we become 'without beginning'––not through our origin but by the gift of Grace: life without beginning is communicated to us.  And there is no limit to the outpouring of the Father's love: man becomes identical with God––the same by content, no by primordial Self-Being.  God will eternally be GOD for the reasonable being."  (We Shall See Him as He Is, p172.)
It is though our participation in this uncreated light that we become deified, become like Christ.  We do not become a god in essence but by Grace and adoption.  We are  taught that we can never behold, or know the Divine Essence, but when we are filled with this Divine Light we experience His Uncreated Energies. This is a personal communion with God, face to face. Our identity is not assumed into the Divine Essence. And, it is much more than an experience of Light.
Saint Symeon the New Theologian
Here is how Saint Symeon the New Theologian expresses it in one of his hymns, 
He Himself is discovered within me, resplendent inside my wretched heart, enlightening me from all sides with His immortal splendor, shining on all of my members with His rays.  Entirely intertwined with me, He embraces me entirely.  He gives Himself totally to me, the unworthy one, and I am filled with His love and beauty.  I am sated with pleasure and Divine tenderness.  I share in the Light.  I participate also in the glory. My face shines like that of my beloved and all my members become bearers of Light.
* Fr. John Meyendorff explains the meaning of enhypostatic:
"This divine light cannot be contemplated as a hypostasis, that is, as an independent reality, since strictly speaking it has no essence. It can be contemplated only in a hypostasis, i'e', in a personal locus. Here Palamas has in mind the deified saints who by grace show forth in their whole persons the light that transforms them. But the energies are also "enhypostatic" in respect of the Person (hypostasis) of Christ. The light of tabor does not reveal the divine essence, but the second person of the Trinity.
As well as meaning "what exists in another hypostasis", enhypostatic can also mean "what really exists"' that which is genuine or authentic, e.g. of our real adoption as sons by the grace of the Holy Spirit. The first sense of the word goes back to the christology of Leontius of Byzantium, the second to Mark the Monk.
You can see also

August 6 & 7: The Light of Transfiguration of the Lord & the day of the 10.000 African Orthodox Saints !

Παρασκευή, 2 Αυγούστου 2019

August: the holy month of the Virgin Mary (with the "Easter of the Summer") in the Orthodox Church!...

"In giving birth you preserved your virginity,
In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos.
You were translated to life, O Mother of Life,
And by your prayers, you deliver our souls from death".

Click here, please!...

 The feast of the Assumption of Mother of God (Theotokos), August 15, 2015, in the Orthodox Holy Metropolis of Katanga, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo from here.
 Icon from here 

Τετάρτη, 17 Ιουλίου 2019

Madagascar: On the Edge of Poverty

Video (from AP Archive, link in Orthodox Diocese of Toliara & South Madagascar): 

The International Monetary Fund sees no immediate prospect of helping to put the poverty-stricken island nation of Madagascar on the road to recovery because its government won't open up its finances to outside inspection. Its people face a further decline in their standard of living. Already Madagascar is one of the world's poorest countries, 75 per cent of its people surviving on less than a dollar a day, lucky to get one small meal as price rises take even the staple food of rice beyond their means. 
In the slums of the capital Antananarive, there is no clean water and no sewage system. Picking over refuse is often the only employment. Families are forced to live together - three to five families in a house - because they cannot afford to rent their own. Madagascar's economic decline since independence has seen average income cut in half in recent years. Corruption and government in-fighting makes the future look even bleaker. 

An article
† Ignatius, Bishop of Madagascar
Orthodox Missionary Fraternity

I feel the need to communicate with you to make you partakers of the missionary work. With the help of God and the blessing of His Beatitude Pope and Patriarch Theodoros, the missionary and charity work progresses slowly but steadily. Our work is multidimensional due to the large number of needs in both fields, that of Mission and the philanthropic one. Everyday new things, needs and problems arise. Natives always look forward to our aid, thinking that we can solve all kinds of issues because they themselves have no access to the state or to persons holding a position or to economically well-off people. People with health problems come to us on a daily basis. In these cases we refer them to our own medical clinics, but when the problem is somewhat serious, we send them to a hospital under escort. In many villages that we visit we experience serious incidents that sooner or later lead the patient to premature death as the condition is at an advanced stage and is not reversible. Mission clinics prevent many such cases and save lives in the vast deserts where they operate.

Love for the salvation of both bodies and souls, leaves no room for opportunities to be lost, dispensing trouble, time and money in order to save even one soul. Our brother, whatever that may be, does not cease to be Christ himself, and we must place ourselves in the position of the good Samaritan. All of this is not easy to handle, because first and foremost the Mission is in need of capable, hard-working people, time and money. Half of the success of the whole project in the Mission depends on the persons involved. Unfortunately, such gifted laborers are absent from almost all Missions; as a result, the burden of the Mission falls on the shoulders of very few people.

The distances are very long and the roads are in an awful condition, which makes our short pastoral trips to many remote areas much harder. Our Christians are expecting us to go there so that they can hear God’s word and talk to us about their problems.

People cut off from our well-known civilized world are asking to share their love and everything that they are concerned about. Such areas lack not only electricity, which is non-existent even in large towns, but also water. In these barren and arid areas, when possible, the Mission builds cisterns in the center of the village and fills them from the water cart, so that people can have a little clean drinking water. In Toliara region, where it rarely rains, lack of water is a serious problem. You can see people transporting water from many kilometers away with the jerry cans on their heads or with improvised wheelbarrows or even with ox-carts. There are several villages along the road in rocky areas, without any other vegetation than wild shrubs.

Their only job is to make charcoal and sell it in Toliara. Their image is tragic. Their clothes are shabby, dirty, torn, almost ragged. Their primitive outdoor oven is a charcoal or wood-burning one. Their kitchen utensils are in an awful condition, without any basic hygiene rules. Little children do not go to school because there are not any; as a result, they play all day with dirt and makeshift toys. With a few pieces of candy that we give them, they are overjoyed and even lick the paper the candy is wrapped in. There is the pinnacle of poverty and deprivation. We promised to make them a small school and a small church. It would be gift a from heaven if the Fraternity could help us construct these two small buildings. Let us hope that God will send a warm-hearted donor to our assistance. Hope is never lost. It dies last. The Lord will provide.

Orthodox Madagascar 
Orthodox Mission  

Nuwe Opname van die Goddelike Liturgie

‘n Nuwe opname van die Ortodokse Liturgie, getoonset met hoofsaaklik die bekende Psalmmelodieë van Goudimel, sal binnekort beskikbaar wees. Hieronder is die motivering vir hierdie opname soos wat dit voorlopig op die binneblad van die opname gaan verskyn:

Waarom hierdie toonsetting?

My inspirasie om die Ortodokse Liturgie te toonset met die Psalm-melodieë van veral Goudimel, asook ‘n melodie van die Heilige Notker, is te danke aan my kennismaking op YouTube met André Nieuwkoop in Nederland se zangavonden, waar skares mense, gewoonlik meer as ‘n duisend, byeenkom, om die Psalms te sing. Ek het hierdie melodieë ontroerend gevind en was getref deur die geestelike diepte daarvan. Ek het dit met ‘n half-Afrikaanse kollega in die VSA gedeel en na hy na heelwat van hierdie Psalms geluister het, was sy opmerking: “Profoundly prayerful genius!” Ek het toe begin kyk na die moontlikheid om van hierdie melodieë te gebruik vir die toonsetting van die Goddelike Liturgie van die Ortodokse Kerk in Afrikaans en was aangenaam verras om te vind dat dit nie net moontlik was nie, maar dat dié musiek ook die geestelike diepte van die Liturgie treffend beliggaam. Tot dusver was ons aangewese op meesal Russiese melodieë, maar nou het ons ‘n musiekskat tot ons beskikking wat gewortel is in en eie is aan die geskiedenis van die oorgrote meerderheid Afrikaanssprekendes en wat ewe goed ook die draer van die Ortodoksie in Afrikaans kan wees. Met die gebruik van hierdie melodieë kry die Ortodoksie in Afrikaans myns insiens nou die moontlikheid van ‘n eie unieke stem.
Ek het met Leon Starker oor die moontlikheid gepraat om hierdie toonsetting met sy Oikos-sangers op te neem en hy was van meet af aan baie entoesiasties om dit te doen. Die doel van die opname is tweeledig: Om ‘n voorbeeld te hê vir Afrikaanse Ortodokse Christene van hoe die musiek gesing moet word, en om die skoonheid van die Liturgie met hierdie pragtige melodieë aan Afrikaanse mense in die algemeen bekend te stel, om so moontlik by te dra tot die geestelike en kulturele verryking van ons mense.
Graag wil ek ook my dank uitspreek teenoor ons Aartsbiskop Sergios, Metropoliet van die Aartsbisdom Goeie Hoop, wat sy toestemming en seën vir hierdie projek gegee het.
Mag hierdie opname vir vele van seën en tot stigting wees!

Vader Zacharias van Wyk, presbiter
Kapel van die Heilige Maria die Egiptenaar
Ortodokse Aartsbisdom Goeie Hoop
Patriargaat Alexandrië


Afrikaans Ortodoks