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