Κυριακή 14 Αυγούστου 2022

On the Mother of God

Orthodox Metropolis of Zambia

“The Most Holy Mother of God prays for us ceaselessly. She is always visiting us. Whenever we turn to her in our heart, she is there. After the Lord, she is the greatest protection for mankind. How many churches there are in the world that are dedicated to the Most Holy Mother of God! How many healing springs where people are cured of their ailments have sprung up in places where the Most Holy Theotokos appeared and blessed those springs to heal both the sick and the healthy! She is constantly, by our side, and all too often we forget her.” ~ Elder Thaddeus
 

As we prepare our hearts for and then commemorate the Feast of the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God, let us take some time to think about Mary, the Theotokos. What can we learn from her love for God and her submission to His will? How did her choices and the way that she lived her earthly life affect ours? How does she continue to impact the world since her Dormition?
The All-Holy is conceived, as an offspring of prayer, from the Holy Joachim and Anna, her parents, surpassing the laws of nature (because her mother was barren and old, when she conceived). The Conception of the All-Holy in the womb of Saint Anna is celebrated on December 9th.

At the age of three, her parents offer her to God, and give her into the hands of prophet Zacharia, the high-priest, at that time at the temple of Solomon, and later to be the father of the Honored Forerunner, who takes her in the Holy of Holies of the Temple of Solomon, by God’s command. The Entrance of the All-Holy into the Holy of Holies is celebrated on November 21st.

The All-Holy, remained there enclosed for twelve years, until she became 15 years old. At all this time, she was nurtured, daily with the heavenly bread, by the hands of Archangel Gabriel. She lived surpassing the laws of nature, and she was devoted to ceaseless prayer.

At the age of 15, prophet Zacharias by God’s command, takes her out, and betroths her, delivering her, for protection, with the righteous Joseph, of whom the rightful wife had been diseased, and where he had have with her sons and daughters. Joseph, takes in the All-Holy and places her in his home in Nazareth.

After four months of her arrival there, and 6 months from the Conception of the Honored Forerunner in the old womb of Elizabeth, the Annunciation takes place, by Archangel Gabriel (Luke 1:26-27). The Annunciation of the All-Holy is celebrated on March 25th.

Simultaneously, after her consent to the message of the Archangel, the seedless and inconceivable conception of our Lord Jesus Christ takes place, by the Holy Spirit, in the womb of the All-Holy (Luke 1:38).

There, in Bethlehem, the All-Holy gives birth to Christ, in a manger, ….above the laws of nature (Luke 2:7). The Nativity of Christ is celebrated on December 25th. There the shepherds of the sheep came to venerate Christ (Luke 2:16).

Far away not, in Persia, as soon as Christ was born, a strange star appeared in the sky. The Magi, looking at it carefully, they began following it until Judea of Jerusalem (Mt. 2: 1-2). This voyage lasted about two years.

In the mean time, after Christ’s birth, the All-Holy with Christ and Joseph remained in Bethlehem until the time came for the purification according to the law of Moses (Lk. 2: 22). The presentation of the Christ into the Temple is celebrated on February 22.

After the Presentation, Joseph takes the All-Holy and Christ into His house in Nazareth.

At the passing of two years, as it was Joseph’s custom, they went up to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover (Lk. 2:41). Before or after the feast of the Passover, they go to Bethlehem for a few days to stay in a nearby in.

When the Magi arrived in Jerusalem, they asked where Christ was (Mt. 2:1). Herod is sending them to Bethlehem (Mt. 2:8-9). There, in Bethlehem, the star leads them over the place where the All-Holy and Christ were staying, and where the Magi worshiped Him, as God and King, in that house (Mt. 2: 9-11).

When the Magi departed, Joseph and the All-Holy with Christ, depart to Egypt during the night of the same day (Mt. 2:14). After few days, Herod sends his soldiers to Bethlehem and the surrounding region and slaughter the babes (Mt. 2:16).

Joseph with the All-Holy and Christ remain in Egypt until the time of Herod’s death (Mt. 2:19). There they remained for three years at the Helioupolis of Memphidus.
Later, they returned to Nazareth permanently, until the time when Christ became thirty years old (Mt. 2:23; Mk. 1:9; Lk. 2:51 and 3:23).

During this time, every year they were coming in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover (Lk. 2:41).

After the Baptism of Christ by the Forerunner and Baptist John, the All-Holy follows Christ along with the Apostles and the Myrrhbearers, and she would serve Him until the time of the Crucifixion and His Burial (Mt. 27:55-56; Mk. 15:40-41; Lk. 23:49 and Jn. 2:12, 19:25-26).

After the Crucifixion of Christ, Apostle John, the Theologian and Evangelist, takes the All-Holy to his house, in Jerusalem (Jn. 19:27), after taking the responsibility of her protection, given to him by Christ (Jn. 20:27). This house was her permanent abode until the time of her blessed falling asleep.

After the Resurrection of Christ, the All-Holy first, along with Mary Magdalene, saw the risen Christ (Mt. 28:1; Mk. 26:1; Lk. 24:10), and she kissed His feet.
At the Ascension of Christ, the All-Holy was together with the Apostles, at the Mount of Olives.

During Pentecost again, the All-Holy is with the Apostles, the twelve and the seventy.
The tradition of the Church states, that the All-Holy went to Cyprus and as far as to Mt. Athos, during her earthly life.

The All-Holy fall asleep at the age of 59. She was buried in the garden of Gethsemane, in Jerusalem, from where she was resurrected in three days, and immediately she was translated into the heavens with her body, in the same manner like Christ.

Please, see also  

Mary: The Blessing of All Generations

The Vindication of the Mother of God

The Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos (August 1 - 15), a celebration of the life and victory over death!

Every Generation!

August: the holy month of the Virgin Mary in the Orthodox Church !

Κυριακή 7 Αυγούστου 2022

Christianity, Nationalism and Racism

 

Photo: Bishop Innocentios of Burundi and Rwanda (of Africa) during a pilgrimage by Orthodox African Christians to the mountains of the Caucasus to honour Saint Nina who, during the 4th century had brought Christianity to the land of Georgia (from here)

Ελληνικά: Χριστιανισμός, εθνικισμός και ρατσισμός

By Theodore J. Rigniotes, Theologian

Translate A.N.

Ours is an age of panic:  with an economic crisis that increasingly impacts the weakest... with mental stress intensified by the (with or without quotation marks) pandemic... with a serious deficit in the State’s presence in support of the citizen... with various external threats (for example, even from neighbouring lands) and a host of other thorny issues... all test our patience and our endurance by shredding people’s dignity and jeopardizing the sense of security that they should be feeling - not only within their own country, but even as an immigrant in any “free” (whatever that may imply) and well-governed country.

No-one can even be sure that tomorrow it will be possible to switch on the light, have water in our glass and food on our plate... not to mention free healthcare and education, permanent jobs, etc. (these are becoming increasingly forgotten items).  There is also no certainty if people are actually being tracked by technology every minute, or being “sprayed” with unknown materials, or if humans have already been turned into faceless numbers of an electronic hyper-system, which can imminently direct their daily lives upon the decisions made by certain powerful individuals and in disregard if such things were desired or approved.

Of course there are thousands of fellow human beings who have already been deprived of all these basic needs (even potable water and daily nourishment!), which we, the “many”, have for decades taken for granted. But, being increasingly informed by the mass media and the bills that are sent to consumers every month, these important commodities are no longer self-evident.

As in every time of panic, so today, conditions have favoured the emergence of extreme political tendencies that promise the people liberation from their painful shackles. This is the reason one sees Nazist groups and extreme-right parties infiltrating Parliament and their ideas finding followers - even among people who do not vote for them.

Among other things, Christianity is also being turned into an element of political ideology. This can be expected, inasmuch as Christianity also possesses a social message (which is automatically a political message as well), but also because in the past, the Christian faith has often inspired the liberating revolutions – not only by the Greek populace, but also by other peoples of the world.

So, it looks like we are becoming politicized as Christians.  However, one must never forget that Christianity is primarily a spiritual matter.  Regrettably, in the recent past it had been misused as the (governing) dictatorship’s crutch... Likewise, during the Middle Ages it was twisted into a means of terrorizing and oppressing the Western European peoples by the so-called “Roman Catholic Church”, as well as by the kings of Europe. This is why care and awareness are imperative, that Christianity cannot be turned into a political faction, but rather should be inspiring a political stance for the benefit of the people. The viewpoint that Christianity should not be expressed publicly is not only erroneous; it is also suspicious, because the underpinning of Christianity is both revolutionary and liberating.

The political stance inspired by authentic Christianity is characterized by justice, charity towards all people (even criminals), respect towards every person, selflessness, and willingness for self-sacrifice and self-offering.

Most certainly a Christian (whether politicized or not) cannot remain apathetic towards issues such as social injustice, economic impoverishment, the exploitation of workers (even the major Fathers of the Church, such as the Three Hierarchs who had openly expressed a vehement critique against the authorities of their time, had risked their very lives in doing so!), but also towards issues which at first sight do not seem political - such as the humiliation of the human body by transforming it into a sexual object, and the bombardment with messages of violence and frenzy festering especially within the generation of teenagers (but also of children) through “entertainment” mediums that include scenes of murder and torture, stories of horror and cannibalism, monstrous and demonic “heroes”, etc. These items – and many others unfortunately! – have already shown their bitter fruits, both in the lives of young people but also in entire families and in society as a whole.

Reprehensible extremes

Reprehensible extremes incompatible with the Christian faith, which are nevertheless often muddled when ideologically labelled as “Christianity” (causing confusion and aberrations), are ideas such as nationalism, racism, conditional acceptance of violence (against a guilty party for example) - even the acceptance of fascism of varying hues.

Nationalism and racism, under the inclusive term “ethno-phyletism”, have been explicitly condemned by the Orthodox Church in 1872, by decision of the Great Local Synod in Constantinople, on account of the Bulgarian nationalism at the time, which had turned the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria into a weapon of domination of the peoples living in northern Greece’s Turk-occupied Macedonia and Thrace - which had triggered the Macedonian Struggle around 1900, with the participation of many Cretans also. This was of course preceded by the Greek nationalist movement by the Bavarians who ruled Greece in 1833 and had excised the Church of Greece from the Ecumenical Patriarchate - which finally recognized it by making it an Autocephalous (self-governing) Church.

Nowadays similar trends have been observed in certain places (i.e. newly pronounced, pseudo “States”), where an approving stance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate towards groups such as the nationalist charactered “Churches” of the Ukraine and the “Macedonian Church” in Skopje, which, from their non-canonical and marginal (schismatic) status were arbitrarily declared as canonical, legal Churches of those regions, AND autocephalous (=not dependent on any Patriarchate or any other, local Orthodox Church). Only God knows what the long-term consequences of this practice will be: therapeutic, or traumatic?

It would be useful to mention here the condemnation of negro slavery in the USA by the Ecumenical Patriarch Joachim II in 1862 (with an article of his in the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s magazine “Eastern Star”, republished in America), as well as the move by the Orthodox Archbishop Iakovos of America who had gone to Selma, Alabama and had stood by Martin Luther King for the second black rights demonstration march in March of 1965.

Apart from the above, it should be stressed that Greeks who embrace their cultural tradition should not be nationalists. “Philopatrids” – that is, patriots with a love for their homeland – yes; but not nationalists. 

Nationalism is the fruit of the efforts by Western European peoples to liberate themselves from the feudalism and the oppressive empires that were robbing them of their very lives.  The people of Greece had faced this problem too, during the centuries-long Turkish occupation; but until that time (or even during that time) they had belonged uninterruptedly for entire centuries to a multinational society that preserved individual and particular cultures and Histories, but whose members were united by common moral values ​​and common ideals. This society was the Christian Romaic Empire (or “Romania” as it was called during the last centuries of its history) – whose general description came to prevail as “Byzantium”.

Because of the name “Romania” (from which is also derived the name of the country of Romania), all the descendants of the “Byzantines” are characterized as “Romans”, while the totality of all the peoples who were once “Byzantines” is characterized as “Romanity”. (Note: “Romanity” is also the title of the much-sung rendition of the poem by Yannis Ritsos and the music by Mikis Theodorakis). Its message is Christian, but not nationalist.  “Roman” refers to every Orthodox Christian - not only of the Balkans, but also of Turkey (for example Saint Ahmed the Calligrapher, who was martyred by the Ottoman state for converting to Christianity), also Saint John of Damascus of Syria, Saint Makarios of Egypt, Martyrs of Palestine and of many other peoples. This had also been the aim of the major, exceptionally important Greek idealist, Rigas Feraios.

All Orthodox Christians are one with these - just as they are one with every Orthodox Christian of all peoples, wherever on earth (from Uganda for example to Alaska - and of course even to Russia, Ukraine, etc. – hence our grief being double over the current Russo-Ukrainian conflict), as they are all united by the Common Chalice of Holy Communion, which no-one is allowed to deprive us of - regardless if it is attempted in the name of fear, say, of a certain pandemic or for any other reason...

Although not united by the Common Chalice with other Christian groups and the faithful of other religions, we are however united in the teachings of Jesus Christ about love towards all people – and this is something that should never, ever be forgotten.

Romanity is “ecumenical” – inasmuch as it aspires to embrace all peoples in the world - but at the same time is opposed to the orientation of contemporary Globalization, which primarily aspires to self-interest (=looking out for one’s own interests) and is in the hands of powerful economic and political factors, who are anything but concerned with bringing man closer to God, which is the most important element and the most desirable aim in the life of Christians.

In political terms, Globalization is by nature colonialist. Romanity is its exact opposite.

As for conditional violence (with slogans such as “hang them in the public square!” as a reaction to criminals such as paedophiles, rapists, drug dealers etc. - even politicians), it seems quite clear that such behaviour does not befit people who simultaneously wish to be proper Orthodox Christians. Of course convictions, restraints and imprisonments of criminals are necessary – especially those guilty of heinous crimes!  However such condemnations should not be vindictive while simultaneously claiming to be proper Christians!. They should aspire to protect society and to rehabilitate – that is, to correct (if and where possible) the guilty parties.

It is understandably very difficult – even superhuman! – for one to defeat the natural human tendency towards hatred and revenge. However, a Christian should not be a “natural” person, but a “supernatural” one. We must all be human beings that rise above the earth heavenward to become angels... indeed more than angels – and become “children of God”.  It is the reason that Christ Himself (the only-begotten Son of God) had taught us to recite the Lord’s Prayer:  “Our Father...” as if we too are like Christ: as sons and daughters of God.  We should pay careful attention to this detail and at least strive to honour it.


Παρασκευή 5 Αυγούστου 2022

The Mount of Transfiguration and the Bridal Chamber of Christ


 

There is a propensity in our modern world to break things down – to analyze. We have gained a certain mastery over many things by analyzing the various components of their structure and manipulating what we find. It has become the default position for modern thought. This power of analysis, however, is weakened by its very success. Frequently the truth of something lies not in the summary of its parts but in the wonder of the whole.

This is certainly the case with the Christian faith. It is not uncommon for theology to be addressed under various headings: Christology, soteriology, eschatology, ecclesiology, hermeneutics, etc. It makes for an impresive array of titles on a seminary faculty listing. The problem, however, is that theology ultimately seeks to describe or state one thing (or it should). That one thing, however, is so large that it cannot be spoken with ease. The fullness of the faith is not revealed in the analysis of various constituent elements, but in the slow (and sometimes sudden) apprehension of the whole.

If I had to use a single word to describe the one thing that is “everything” it would be Pascha (in its fullness). I cannot think of any part of the Christian life or revelation that is not gathered into the fullness of Pascha. It is one of the reasons that the liturgical celebration of Pascha is as utterly overwhelming in its Orthodox expression.

Liturgy has a grammar, a way of speaking and revealing truth. This grammar does things that cannot be done as easily in discursive theological writing. I have written about this previously.

For one, Orthodox liturgical practice has a habit of bringing elements of the Christian story together that are frequently kept apart – particularly in our modern compartmentalized approach to the faith. There are “theological rhythms” within the Orthodox cycle of services. Each of the seven days of the week has a particular assigned theme (Mondays for the Angels, Tuesdays for St. John the Baptist, etc.). Every day on the calendar has one or more (usually many more) saints whose memory is kept on that day. There is also the cycle of feasts that depend on the date of Pascha, and others that are determined according to a fixed date.

These cycles are always meeting each other and bringing their own elements and insights into the service. Thus those who come to worship are never “just doing one thing” but are always presented with “several things.” And, greater than that, everything is brought together as a “whole” and not just a collection of parts. The “one thing” is seen at every service, even if one facet shines brighter than others.

August 6 marks the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ [icon]. The Church remembers His transfigured appearance before the disciples on Mt. Tabor, with Moses and Elijah appearing with Him. The material used in the liturgical celebration of the feast looks at this event from almost every conceivable angle. One of those angles caught me by surprise the first time I encountered it. – it was occasioned by the normal confluence of liturgical structure – but gave me an image that left me speechless in wonder.

It came at Matins on the day before Transfiguration (known as the Forefeast). During Matins each day, there is the reading of “the canon.” This is a hymn that follows a particular poetic structure. It consists of nine odes, each of which takes its inner meditation from one of the nine traditional Biblical canticles of the Old Testament (such as the “Song of Moses” in Exodus 15:1 and following). The sixth ode is always a reflection on the hymn within the book of Jonah (whose three days in the whale is always seen as a “type” of Christ’s three days in the belly of the earth).

This is the verse that struck me:

Making ready for His friends a Bridal Chamber of the glory of that joy which is to come, Christ ascendeth the mountain, leading them up from life below to the life of heaven.

I have generally viewed the Transfiguration in its own “compartment.” I have extended that consideration to include reflection on the Palamite doctrine of the Divine Energies, since St. Gregory Palamas used the image of the Light of the  Transfiguration for much of his theological understanding. But I had never made the leap to Pascha (to which belongs the image of the Bridal Chamber).

I found myself speechless. The idea was too full. The image of the bridal chamber and its affinity with Pascha is rich, in and of itself. The Church looks forward to the “marriage feast of the Lamb,” an image used for the close of the age and the fulfilling of all things. Pascha is that close and that fulfilling even though it also occurs at a particular moment in history in 33 A.D. The death and resurrection of Christ is the marriage of heaven and earth, the union of God and man, the fulfillment of all things. Having revealed to His disciples the “Bridal Chamber” (as far as they could bear to see it), He then begins to speak to them of His coming resurrection and His sufferings in Jerusalem

The Transfiguration is also the Bridal Chamber (and is described in many other ways as well). It is a glimpse, (out of sequence in a place where sequence has no place), of the fullness of Divinity. Christ appears with Elijah and Moses, the living and the dead, the prophets and the law, and speaks with them concerning His Pascha. And this happens in the context of the Divine Light – a brightness that was beyond the disciples’ ability to bear.

Our faith itself should have this quality of fullness about it – something that is greater than our ability to bear. Our compartmentalization of the world and our faith reduce both to bearable levels – but then we fail to live or to believe. Understanding begins with wonder – and wonder requires something beyond our normal limits. The Transfiguration is an invitation to the Bridal Chamber – the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection in the depths of Pascha. Shame on us if we compartmentalize the event in a meditation on the Divine Light. The Light shines in the darkness for a reason, and for a reason the darkness does not comprehend it.

May Christ carry each of us into the Bridal Chamber of the glory of that joy which is to come – and bring us up from the life below to the life of heaven in the wonder of His Pascha!

 

Πέμπτη 4 Αυγούστου 2022

The Failure of Hedonism

 

By Justin Marler

Whether subliminal or completely overt, we are told that we should do what we want when we want. “Just do it!” or “You deserve it!” or “Enjoy yourself!” “Do what you want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone” is the prevailing motto in our culture and age. We are so entrenched in this that it is a built-in philosophy and way of life for most of us. We get this messaging from all advertising, music and movies, and virtually all media. We are trained in this philosophy from childhood. Selfishness becomes the norm as we get older. As adults we consume, buy, take and feed our desires always. And when we don’t get our way we get irritated, bitter and even feel justified in rage. This is the American way.

This is not a new philosophy. The ancient Greeks had formalized this way of life in a school of thought called Hedonism, which claims that pleasure and happiness are the primary or most important intrinsic goods and the goal of human life. In this philosophy a hedonist strives to maximize pleasure and avoid pain. In this way of life one does whatever one wants not restricting any form of self-indulgence. In more recent times this idea was thrust forward by English magician Aleister Crowley in his cultic religion that espoused: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law….”

You would think that if we do what we want when we want this would make us happy. But for some reason this can’t be farther from the truth. This has been clearly demonstrated by this generation. We do what we want but for some reason depression, despair, discontentment, unhappiness and suicide are increasing at surprising rates. We have more comfort than all previous ages and peoples in all of history. We have homes with indoor plumbing, air conditioning, access to medical and dental care, access to drugs to make our illnesses and discomforts go away, access to all foods, meat, sweets, and junk food. We have immense warehouses where we can find every form of liquor, wine, beer and cheese. We can indulge ourselves for hours and even days by binge watching TV shows, movies, sequels, and all this content is pumped into our homes from “the cloud” at the click of a button.  We can get high, get drunk, get lost in social media at will. We can have sex with anyone at any time because this is the norm, and because we have pills to make us sterile. And if we can’t find a partner we can virtually engage by pumping pornography into our homes from “the cloud.” Then, we find ourselves slaves of our own pleasures. We become addicts and puppets of our desires. 

We do what we want but our hearts are restless. We are depressed! How could this be? Hedonism as the new religion is not working. Since the time of the Greek Philosophers we have known that pleasure does not produce happiness and contentment. Hedonism as a philosophy was overcome by the virtues, one of which was called: self-control. Even with modern neurological science we know this. Dopamine is released and we want more, but more is never enough. However, we still move forward with this new religion.

So what do we do? The key to our restlessness, discontent, unbearable dejection and meaningless pleasure filled lives is clearly not found in doing what we want. It is found in exactly the opposite. It is found in a life lived in virtue and self-control. When we slay our desires, we slay our sorrow. When we train ourselves to practice virtue, we develop interior peace and contentment that is enduring. Love, chastity, humility, justice, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-sacrifice and self-control are the cure to the human condition.

You can see also

Philosophical Ketchup (or "The taste you deserve", “Have it your way”)

Steve the Builder

Πέμπτη 28 Ιουλίου 2022

Στον Πατριάρχη Αλεξανδρείας το βραβείο Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων «Αθηναγόρας 2022» του Οικουμενικού Πατριαρχείου

Orthodoxia news agency

Με τις ευλογίες του Σεβασμιωτάτου Αρχιεπισκόπου Αμερικής κ. Ελπιδοφόρου, το Τάγμα του Αγίου Αποστόλου Ανδρέα, οι Άρχοντες του Οικουμενικού Πατριαρχείου, ανακοινώνει ότι το Βραβείο Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων «Αθηναγόρας 2022» θα απονεμηθεί στον Μακαριώτατο Πάπα και Πατριάρχη Αλεξανδρείας κ.κ. Θεόδωρο Β’. Ο Μακαριώτατος υπήρξε ακούραστος υπερασπιστής του Οικουμενικού Πατριαρχείου και αποφασισμένος υπέρμαχος της θρησκευτικής ελευθερίας. Το βραβείο θα απονεμηθεί το Σάββατο 8 Οκτωβρίου 2022 στο ετήσιο συμπόσιο του Τάγματος, όπου αποδίδεται το βραβείο για τα Ανθρώπινα Δικαιώματα «Αθηναγόρας». Η τελετή θα γίνει στο ξενοδοχείο New York Hilton στη Νέα Υόρκη. ...

Ο Μακαριώτατος Πάπας και Πατριάρχης Αλεξανδρείας και πάσης Αφρικής Θεόδωρος Β’ γεννήθηκε στην Κρήτη το 1954, όπου και ολοκλήρωσε τις σπουδές του. Είναι απόφοιτος της Ριζαρείου Εκκλησιαστικής Σχολής Αθηνών και πτυχιούχος της Θεολογικής Σχολής του Αριστοτελείου Πανεπιστημίου Θεσσαλονίκης. Σπούδασε επίσης Ιστορία της Τέχνης, Λογοτεχνία και Φιλοσοφία στην Οδησσό της Ρωσίας. Στις 9 Οκτωβρίου 2004 εξελέγη ομόφωνα από τους Ιεράρχες του Αλεξανδρινού Θρόνου Πάπας και Πατριάρχης Αλεξανδρείας και πάσης Αφρικής.

Το Βραβείο Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων «Αθηναγόρας» καθιερώθηκε το 1986 από το Εθνικό Συμβούλιο του Τάγματος του Αγίου Ανδρέα του Αποστόλου, Τάγμα Αρχόντων του Οικουμενικού Πατριαρχείου στην Αμερική. Το βραβείο πήρε το όνομά του από έναν από τους μεγάλους εκκλησιαστικούς ηγέτες του 20ου αιώνα, τον αείμνηστο Οικουμενικό Πατριάρχη Κωνσταντινουπόλεως, Αθηναγόρα Α’. Το βραβείο απονέμεται κάθε χρόνο στο Ετήσιο Δείπνο του Τάγματος σε ένα πρόσωπο ή οργανισμό που μεριμνά με συνέπεια για τα βασικά δικαιώματα και τη θρησκευτική ελευθερία όλων των ανθρώπων.

Archons.org/

Πέμπτη 21 Ιουλίου 2022

Interview with Fr. Moses Berry: “The Church belongs to everyone”

 

Orthodox Crurch in America (OCA)
Photo: St. Tikhon's Seminary welcomes Archpriest Moses Berry | St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary

Fr. Moses Berry, an OCA priest ministering at Theotokos “Unexpected Joy” Orthodox Church in Ash Grove, Missouri, has an unusual story. In 1998, he moved with his family from St. Louis to his family’s farm in Ash Grove, near Springfield. Century Farm has been in the Berry family since 1872; on the property a cemetery dedicated to “Slaves, Paupers, and Indians” needed maintenance and oversight, and so Fr. Moses left a mission in the city to return to his rural boyhood home.

A small group of faithful collected around the new mission, Theotokos “Unexpected Joy.”  The tiny cemetery chapel hosted the first services; in 2000 the mission was received into the Orthodox Church in America, and in 2003 parishioners erected a temple.

Fr. Moses travels widely to give talks on mission and also on local Afro-American history; folks who have met him elsewhere often stop by to worship when they pass through the area. In addition to leading the parish, Fr. Moses also heads up The Brotherhood of St Moses the Black, a pan-Orthodox nonprofit organization which presents an annual conference targeting those who have little exposure to Orthodoxy or its African roots.

Recently, oca.org interviewed Fr. Moses about his unique ministry.

1.  Father, for those who might not be familiar with your background, can you give us a snapshot of how you came to be an OCA priest?

It was in a seemingly roundabout fashion.  All my life, I’ve had what we in the African American tradition (and some others as well) refer to as a “calling.” I come from a long line of African Methodist Episcopal (AME) preachers of some renown in this area. After being somewhat of a prodigal son, at one point, I found myself being released from incarceration by what seemed to be miraculous means.  I made a promise to serve the Lord, and began a long journey to the Faith, which led me through various Christian and non-Christian groups. When I was ordained by Archbishop JOB in 2000, he told me that I had traveled far to get to the Church, but that I hadn’t “arrived” - the journey would continue.  That made me both thankful for my life to that point, and hopeful for the future.

2.  During Black History Month, it seems especially fitting to discuss your 2011 AAC resolution, which passed by an overwhelming majority. What were you requesting, and why?

I wanted the OCA to invite African American people (referring to those whose ancestors were slaves or could have been slaves, in this country) to the Lord’s feast - not by a “general” invitation because we’ve always been open to everyone, but a specific one. I wanted our Church to call them by name. We know that in Christ there is no East or West, slave or free, no Gentile or Jew, but that very passage indicates that there are distinctions among people, and that God loves us all equally.  It’s time we actively sought after and made a real effort to plant the True Church in the African American community.

The text of the resolution read:
“WHEREAS there are deep resonances between the faith of the early Church and the heartfelt Christianity born out of the American slaves’ experience, especially characterized by the “sad joyfulness” common to the Desert Fathers and Mothers and to the suffering, underground church of the African American slaves, and
WHEREAS African Americans have been and are still significantly under-represented in the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Orthodox Church in America,
BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the Orthodox Church in America, at every level of church life, promote and encourage education about the shared heritage of Black and White Americans and the necessity for increased efforts to evangelize the African American community.”

3.  You have said, “to be a Church for all Americans, we will have to overcompensate.” Can you explain what you mean by this?

Basic human nature tells us that people are most comfortable with others like themselves.  Many of us take this for granted, and may not understand the profound affect it has on an individual to see an icon that resembles them - or conversely, to never see a face that looks like theirs. So many people I know were profoundly moved when they first encountered the image of St. Moses the Black, because of this.  And that’s part of what I mean by overcompensation - we have to recognize everyone’s human frailty and address it, without being condescending. We need to deeply and soberly, in an Orthodox manner, celebrate the diversity of God’s expression in the human family.

4.  This is a busy month for you. Who do you speak to during this month in schools and churches, and what is the thrust of your message?

I most recently talked to a high school group near the Ft. Leonard Wood army base, and I’m speaking at a FOCUS gathering this week about African American history.  Especially to young people, I point out that we were more than slaves, but helped build the nation.  Young people, who feel, rightly or wrongly, disenfranchised, need to know that their ancestors struggled and made great sacrifices, and were not merely victims.

I also would quote St. Ambrose, when he said “Even in the lowliest status, men should learn that their character can be superior and that no state of life is devoid of virtue if the soul of the individual knows itself. The flesh is subject to slavery, not the spirit, and many humble servants are more free than their masters…Every sin is slavish, while blamelessness is free. On this account the Lord also says ‘Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.’ Indeed, how is each greedy man not a slave, seeing that he auctions himself off for a very tiny sum.” (Seven Exegetical Works. B#12 Vol. 65, p. 201)

I use my appearances during Black History month as way to introduce people who might not otherwise hear of it to the history of the Church.

5.  Can you tell us a bit about the 19th Annual Ancient Christianity and Afro-American Conference scheduled for May?

There’s a lot of information about it on the Brotherhood web site. The conference this year will be held at Antiochian Village on May 25-27, and will include people from all Orthodox jurisdictions. Bishop Thomas Joseph of the Antiochian Archdiocese will be the speaker. 

6.  What are the greatest challenges and opportunities facing the clergy and faithful of the OCA today, in regards to reaching out to the African American community?

The first, and most important thing, is to know that we are the true Church, holy, catholic and apostolic, and everyone must be part of it. I have a tiny parish in a tiny town, and I feel that there should be tiny churches in every tiny town, and in every neighborhood.  The Church belongs to everyone - and we are duty-bound to open our hearts, and our doors, however difficult that may be.  In all the years I’ve been a pastor, I’ve been asked repeatedly, “Fr. Moses, how can I minister to Black people?”  I’ve never been asked, “How can I minister to White people?”  So you see, the question is ridiculous. We all do the best we can with what we’ve got, and God gives the increase.

See also

Fr. Moses Berry, a descendant of African slaves, Orthodox priest and teacher in USA 

Archpriest Moses Berry “And Who Is My Neighbor?”

Black Voices in the Orthodox Church  

Black Priest Shares Past, Enlightening White Town 

The True Dignity of Human Beings - Saint Gregory of Nyssa on Slavery

 

St. John the Russian, the Free & Wonderworker Slave (May 27)

 

Δευτέρα 4 Ιουλίου 2022

Want to find peace and quiet in a forest? Don't bring technology with you!



By : Fr. Eusebios Vittis
Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries (photo from here)

In Greek: here & here
Translated by: K. N.

Today's man is afraid of loneliness; he cannot be alone. He is afraid, even in overpopulated cities, in villages and in the countryside.  A strange fact: if you are going to head for the forest, my brother, why don’t you “forsake” your cell phone, radio or TV?  Go there, to savour solitude! Focus on the sounds of rustling leaves, the songs of birds, the babbling brook... you will hear the sounds of the wind whistling through the trees, cleansing and refreshing them, and making them sing as it passes through their branches (provided it is not a storm or a hurricane, but a gentle breeze that reminds us of God).

Man is afraid of remaining alone, because he doesn’t have Christ with him.  Even the greatest hermit is not literally alone. Many people ask: “How do you get along, without any TV?”  Well, I ask them: “How do you get along, without any solitude? Without any peace and quiet?”

Let's take a moment to ponder isolation, stillness, calm, and silence, where there is a huge lesson to be learnt…

We simply cannot remain calm In the world, without a river of utterances beginning to gush forth. Even in places of (respectful) quiet such as Churches, we cannot stay silent; one will inevitably hear a steady droning of churchgoers’ voices, as if they are in a public square (naturally before the commencement of the Liturgy and not during!)

Silence is the opposite of utterance. Man is a rational being; inner utterances can also form articulated utterances, that is, speech. But oftentimes, speaking becomes an unstoppable flow of utterances - sheer chatter that can be very tiring. It is a vacuous utterance, not constructive, lacking in content, and not an enriched utterance “irrigated” by the divine Spirit.

Utterance is a gift. But at times it becomes a torment, making others say: “Doesn’t that person ever stop?  There is a time for speaking and a time to remain silent.”  What time would that be?  Difficult to determine. Let’s see how the holy Fathers describe this in their homilies – themselves having lived in noiselessness, in silence – and let’s learn from them. Let’s find ways to learn in silence the things that the Lord wants from us.

However, we don’t imply the cases where some people become silent when they are offended, when they quarrel, when they’re angry, when they’re jealous and bitter, when they’re in a lot of pain, when they’re afraid, when they dislike, when they secretly prepare malevolent intentions and do not speak. These cases of silence (“silent treatment”) are not representative of virtue.

We... “don’t have time” to focus on our deeper self, which is why, during confession when we prostrate ourselves before the Lord with our Spiritual Father as witness, our confession is sadly deficient; it doesn’t bear fruit, because we have never learnt how to practice inner silence.

Virtue is silence in words”, as the fathers say. Silence is spiritual; it is that which begins from within, then moves outwards.  If the inside is not silent - the inner man, the inner world - if there is dizziness on account of passions such as self indulgence, avarice, envy, greed etc – then you can’t remain calm. Your inside will gnaw at you…

When there is revengefulness, when you believe that you have been misunderstood, that you have been slandered by others, then you are inclined to talk continuously, to get involved in everything around you and eventually become boisterous. Spiritual silence is a virtue that helps us in the balanced use of articulated utterances and in non-spoken quietude.

Silence is an opportunity to talk with oneself. We are not given this opportunity, my brethren, and we also do not seek the opportunity to discover who we are: “this is me... this is how I am...”. But this can only be done in quietude and not hurriedly. 

Silence presupposes ascesis. Ascesis presupposes insulation. But where can we find insulation, when in the cities that we live in, noise never ceases?  Well, even if we are unable to have uninterrupted silence like a hermit, we can establish zones of silence: we can dedicate 15 to 20 minutes in our daily schedule, telling ourselves: “Now, I can remain silent”. When our children are away we should also seek silence by switching off the TVs that are nothing more than invaders in our homes - which also display a lack of respect for man.  So, let's establish zones of silence, as much as we possibly can, at least an elementary degree thereof.

Let's now see what the Holy Fathers say on this matter:

The blessed Nikitas Stethatos writes:

Non-preoccupation with human events and things is spiritual quietude”.

This quietude frees the soul from the shackles of the senses and the passions; by converting the powers of the soul, it recalls it to its natural state - that is, we return to the way the Lord had made us.

We are currently living unnaturally; we are inclined towards the natural, in order to reach the supra-natural by the grace of God, which transcends what we currently are.

Another saint says:

“Quietude is a state of mind; it is the peace of inner freedom, a rejoicing soul, a soul that is not perturbed by anything. It is the deeper knowledge of the mystery of God, it is companionship with God, it is conversing with God - the union and the close bond with God '.

If this doesn’t exist, then we are doing nothing; in other words, quietude is not merely an external display, it is also an internal function. Lacking that, we will have a vacant space in us that will need to be filled. When there is no internal bond with the Lord, quietude probably sounds like something foolish to many.

Saint Thalassios says:

“Enclose your senses inside the fortress of quietude, so that they don’t create distractions because of your desires”, in other words, a cessation of our unceasing desires.

Saint Basil says:

“In life, I abandoned my relations with the world because they were an occasion for myriad evils; but, it was not possible to abandon myself.”   

Indeed, when we find ourselves in a marketplace that is very noisy, even when we return home, the noise still resonates in our ears, which is why the effort for quietude must be an ongoing one.

Saint John Chrysostom says:

“There are cases when silence benefits more than words – and vice-versa. That is, there will be an instance when you will speak: for example, when you are about to save someone, you will break the silence”.

“Proper silence produces proper offspring: temperance, love, clean prayer.”

What is a “clean prayer”?  It is a prayer without any musings, without distractions. For example, when I begin to say the Lord’s Prayer...  'Our Father...' and my thought drifts to the rent I must pay; then, 'Who are in heaven...”  and my thought goes to the electricity bill... or, what the neighbour said the other day, making me tremble in anger etc…. well, my prayer is demolished! Gone is “Our Father”!  Quietude is gone!  One must not pray after being upset about something; one must first calm down.  When entering a house, we do not burst into its private quarters (i.e. the bedroom) directly;  we normally pass through an entrance hall first, then a corridor... Everything presupposes some preparation - especially in prayer. If I am not calm and prepared, I should read from a spiritual book, prepare myself, and then talk to God.

Quietude and prayer, love and temperance comprise the four-wheeled chariot that leads to the heavens”, that is, a chariot with four wheels that lifts the mind heavenward.

Says St. John Chrysostom, “Many were the things that could have held back Pilate and the Jews: miracles, Christ’s tolerance; but above all, it was His ineffable silence.”

If only we could be silent like the Lord!  Jesus remained silent” – even during the most difficult moments!    Thus, the long-suffering, the forgiving, and those who know how to be silent will be safe when walking steadily on their path, and also be pleasant to everyone.

 

Τετάρτη 29 Ιουνίου 2022

Pourquoi Pierre et Paul sont fêtés le même jour ?

Icône sainte des saints Pierre et Paul du Burundi

The metropolitan of Burundi and Rwanda wishes many years those who are celebrating their name day of Saints Peter and Paul

Pere Basile Bonane

fr.aleteia.org

La solennité des saints Pierre et Paul, le 29 juin, permet de faire mémoire des martyrs de deux des apôtres parmi les plus importants du christianisme, dont les destins hors du commun ont été liés par une finalité commune.

« Rappelez-vous la parole que je vous ai dite : un serviteur n’est pas plus grand que son maître. Si l’on m’a persécuté, on vous persécutera, vous aussi. Si l’on a gardé ma parole, on gardera aussi la vôtre ». C’est avec ces paroles rapportées par l’Évangile de Jean (Jn 15, 20) que Jésus annonce à ses disciples l’importance du martyr des premiers chrétiens. Parmi les douze présents, seuls deux ne le connaîtront pas : Judas Iscariote (Mt 27, 5), et Jean, « le disciple bien-aimé », à qui Dieu permet de vivre longtemps et de mourir sur l’île de Patmos, après la rédaction de l’Apocalypse. Parmi ces morts, l’une devait rendre particulièrement gloire à Dieu, celle de Pierre (Jn 21, 19). Les Évangiles ne précisent néanmoins pas que l’une des raisons à cela est que l’apôtre a partagé son destin avec Paul, à Rome. 

Deux piliers de l’Église

Pour rappel, simple pêcheur, Simon rebaptisé « Kephas » ou Pierre par Jésus, est appelé avec son frère André à suivre le Seigneur sur le bord du lac de Tibériade. Un événement qui provoque un complet bouleversement en lui. Jésus ira jusqu’à lui dire : « Tu es Pierre, et sur cette pierre je bâtirai mon Église ; et la puissance de la Mort ne l’emportera pas sur elle » (Mt 16, 18). Persécuteur des premiers chrétiens et citoyen romain, Saul, devenu Paul, se convertit sur la route de Damas, grâce à une apparition de Jésus (Ac 9, 3-18). Il se consacre alors à l’évangélisation et se fait connaître comme « apôtre des gentils » (des non-juifs) ou « des Nations ». Tous les deux jouent un rôle décisif dans la fondation de l’Église.

En l’an 50 se tient le fameux « concile de Jérusalem ». Rapporté par le quinzième chapitre des Actes des Apôtres, il porte sur l’ouverture des juifs chrétiens aux païens. La discussion a lieu en réalité entre trois hommes : Jacques le juste, surnommé « le frère du Seigneur » (Ga 1, 19), qui dirige l’assemblée, Pierre et Paul. Cet événement, qui fixe le rôle de la loi et celui du Christ dans le salut, est essentiel dans la fondation de l’Église universelle, qui dépasse les simples juifs. Leurs destins vont alors se séparer pour se recroiser une dizaine d’années plus tard.En 64, Rome est incendié. L’empereur Néron, souvent soupçonné d’en être l’auteur, profite de la tragédie pour persécuter les chrétiens, déclarés coupables. « On livra aux supplices les chrétiens, sorte de gens adonnés à une superstition nouvelle et dangereuse », explique-t-il. 

L’évêque de Rome, Pierre, et Paul, qui se trouvent alors à Éphèse, sont arrêtés. Si la tradition chrétienne relie cet épisode à celui du Grand incendie, d’autres sources, comme la lettre de Clément de Rome, s’y opposent. Qu’importe, les deux apôtres comparaissent devant Néron, qui les condamne. Les deux hommes sont enfermés au Carcer Tullianum, légendaire prison qui a déjà neuf siècles, et qui a vu passer de célèbres prisonniers, comme Vercingétorix, après la prise des Gaules. Pierre et Paul périssent tous deux vers l’an 67. Selon un apocryphe, les Actes de Pierre, l’évêque de Rome refuse par humilité de mourir comme le Christ ; il est alors crucifié la tête à l’envers. Paul, lui, est décapité. Deux morts différentes, pour une même finalité : l’avènement de l’Église.