Orthodoxy as a Communal Faith

Orthodox CommunityINTRODUCTION

The Orthodox Faith is a communal faith, established from the very beginning as a communal faith and transpired throughout history as a communal faith. As the west departed from the east a much more dogmatic/intellectual faith began to evolve in the west with the motivation of spreading the faith easier. They wanted to achieve what they thought was the great commission of Christ. But as both the Protestant and Roman faith began to root into America they found themselves surrounded by a new atmosphere, one in which the communal aspect of their faith could no longer survive! Now, the Orthodox faith is facing the same challenge! We are being tempted more and more each day it seems, to conform to American secularism while picking and plucking from the fathers in order to blend in and create another  “me gospel,” one that involves only the individual and not the community.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Will The Real Pharisee Please Stand?

tol_081813_herzog_pharisees1Extremists are always a difficult bunch to deal with within the Church. But who are these extremists? Are they those who want to obey the traditions or those who want to disobey the traditions? The fathers teach us that in these apocalyptic times Christians will not become extreme in the obedient sense! They will become extreme in the disobedient sense. But what does this disobedience look like?

Within this past century the west has birthed a variety of extremely heretical Bible groups who have made a complete mockery of Christianity. They have also called the traditional churches such as the Roman Catholic and Orthodox out claiming them to be about religion and not about the gospel. Is this true! Are we a bunch of religious pharisees?

Prior to my Orthodox conversion I served within ministry with Calvary Chapel, a very large Evangelical group. They taught us over and over that liturgical churches were religious, not spiritual, and the people were likely not “saved.” I remember one of Chuck Smith’s counterparts once saying over the pulpit that one of the most popular Roman Catholic saints of our time was in hell! To be a liturgical Christian, to them, was not to be a Christian.

One of the primary reasons why Calvary Chapel and so many other Protestants say this about us is because we are committed to a very elaborate and beautiful prayer service but we leave the service – in their eyes – unempowered to spread the gospel. Now, there is certainly a difference of belief in how they believe Christians should spread the gospel and how we believe we should spread the gospel. And so…how do we spread the gospel as Orthodox Christians?

Orthodox Christians do not use sales talk-tracks, simplified doctrinal packages, or any form of manipulation as our form of evangelism. We do not corner people in their beliefs, we do not pressure them to an “altar call” and we certainly do not tell them they are going to hell if they do not convert!

What Orthodox saints are known for, in regards to evangelism, is the philanthropic and humanitarian aspect of the gospel. There are an incredible amount of Bible verses as well as stories and quotes from the fathers that show us this truth. The first that comes to mind is the early Church’s care for the poor and the needy which ultimately led to the Edict of Milan where the Roman emperor Constantine liberated the Christians to build their ministries throughout the Roman Empire, resulting in the Bible (Canon) itself as well as ministries now known as ‘hospitals’ and ‘orphanages.’ This type of cultural conversion happened in many other countries as well such as Russia and America (Alaska). The people in these areas were helped with their lives, their communities.

So what is a religious extremist? I would say that a religious extremist is not one who believes that we should hold to our traditional worship services, but it is one who believes that our worship service does not extend itself out into the greater world in a real and tangible way, a way that actually starts taking shape in the form that Christ says it should. Below are a number of Bible verses that show what the saints have typically adhered to over time. To accomplish such a radical task in our day, we would need to start behaving as a real community…not a worship community but a real life community, one that extends the temple in to the greater culture and geography. Anything less is religious zealotry! And the only way to even begin such a radical task is to actually start believing that the Church is a real life community, as we believed prior to these modern days (and as many Orthodox believe in the east). Passing our calling to a secular government or to other secular organizations is not what we have historically done. We are going to have to begin at a grass roots stage (at least in America) and we are also going to have to believe that this is an essential aspect of our faith.

If groups such as Calvary Chapel knew about our history and what we have done as a community of believers, they may not be so harsh toward us, but what they typically do not read Church history. They simply look at what is going on currently with us and make the judgement. Yes, they are being judgmental, but it is what they see: An isolated religious community within a building.

Holy Scripture

Matthew 25:31-36

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

1 John 3:17

But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?

Matthew 5:42

“Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

Matthew 6:1-4

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

Luke 10:35

“On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’

Luke 11:41

“But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you.

Luke 12:33

“Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.

Luke 14:13

“But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,

Luke 18:22

When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Luke 19:8

Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.”

Acts 3:2-3

And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms.

Acts 3:10

and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Acts 9:36

Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did.

Acts 10:2-4

a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, “Cornelius!” And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God.

Acts 10:31

and he said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God.

Acts 24:17

“Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings;

1 Corinthians 16:1-3

Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem;

2 Corinthians 8:11

But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability.

Galatians 2:10

They only asked us to remember the poor–the very thing I also was eager to do.

Ephesians 4:28

He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.

1 Timothy 6:18

Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,

The Beast of Modernity

BeastThe Battle

If western liberalism can be defined as that which is “progressive” than conservatism can be defined as that which is traditional. This does not mean, of course, that a Liberal will not hold to any philosophies that are founded deeply within history or that a conservative will not hold to any philosophies that are modern! What it does mean is that the presuppositions of each group are founded on being progressive or traditional.

When the going gets tough and a situation within a community requires intellectual support, a Liberal will begin to root their argument on progressive concepts which give more credence to philosophical (ethical, doctrinal, etc.) change in the community, regardless of what the historical argument and practice may be. A Conservative, on the other hand, will begin to found their intellectual argument on more historical concepts which give more credence to preservation of various philosophies and doctrines within a community. Both groups aim to sustain the community but through different means.

Can a Man Take Fire to His Bosom and Not Be Burned?

The antithesis to liberalism is not “conservatism” but traditionalism. Tradition encompasses history and historical values are what the conservative movement claims she is based on. So the questions remains: Why does liberalism continue to conquer our societies? Why does it seem to be winning?

Liberalism has been on this earth since the first families of creation. From the family of Cain we can see how a sort of “overcapitalization” of certain concepts and innovation leads directly and swiftly to complete corruption. There is such a thing as having too much of a good thing, to put it simply! The sons of Cain were certainly the first to accomplish this, capitalizing on women, weapons and instruments for music. No longer was one wife enough, Lamech decided to have many more. No longer was singing enough, simply orchestrated from the human body; instruments were forged. No longer were tools enough for life, weapons were now forged. The progressive lifestyle thus began!

A conservative/traditionalist is in many ways progressive, because the conservative embraces some aspect of modernity. It is required to survive in this life. Modernity, as evil as it is, has always been here and it will always conquer. It is a part of the human condition. It is not natural, but that is what we struggle with: the unnatural aspects of life that grope at our souls. The unnatural vein of modernity is impossible to stop. It is an eschatological reality within our world. It can be slowed and tempered, though. This is the calling of the conservative: to harness modernity so it does not become overcapitalized by the liberal minded.

Historical Outline

To harness and control the beast of modernity we must become experts in the history of traditional societies. If we are not experts, then we become vulnerable to the attacks from the modernists, those who fully embrace modernity. One reason why many of America conservatives will continue to become more and more discouraged is because their scope of history does not continue into history as far as it should. The American Revolution seems to be their point of reference. There is much argument that the rebels were far more liberal than those who remained loyal to the crown, but this is an argument for another day. What we might want to think more about in this discussion is the fact that there are many other traditional societies that thrived and who were not a part of the western monarchy and the destruction of both medieval Catholicism and Protestantism. What is now known as the “Byzantine Empire” is the primary example. This community is often disregarded by western school of thought, even though, in many respects, it was the most powerful and successful society in all world history. It lacks the confusion that western society often embraces regarding modernity and all things progressive. The Byzantine Empire is the Roman Empire (more commonly known as) through what the west often refers to as “the dark ages.” It is a bit humorous that western society would use this term, since yes, the west was in many ways in the dark during these hundreds of years. They often refused to follow the culture and laws of the empire, leading themselves to complete corruption and birthing thousands of illegitimate children (ideals and denominations) throughout the world, who began building illegitimate societies. These societies and denominations were completely unsustainable, eventually fully embracing modernity even in their worship of God.

Harnessing Modernity

A cursory view of civilized societies throughout history will show us how if modernity is embraced and coddled rather than chained and harnessed, exploitation along with many other forms of immorality begin to prevail within the culture. The American Freemasons were experts at this, taking a very ethical concept of lending, for instance, and capitalizing on it, turning it into big business, charging interest to the borrower. This is the unethical concept of usury, and was forbidden in many societies prior to the American rebellion of the late 1700s. Another example might be slavery, and how a biblical concept of the poor working off their debt was turned into big business of slave trade, kidnapping family members from foreign countries who owed nothing to the captors. This is very liberal, very progressive thought, to exploit humanity through slavery. So as much as we might like to think that the early founders of America were modest “conservatives” many of them where not, rather, they were “capitalists.”

A more modern example of liberal progressive action might be that of the current debate of sexuality. Liberating blacks and females to become productive parts of the culture is a good thing, but capitalizing on that concept and liberating ALL types of people, including homosexuals and transvestites is another thing. Or how about free trade, especially in the west, where because we have the ability to build enormous ships and planes we begin building them to create a whole new form of slavery where we do not even have to know the enslaved people and how they are being treated. They are managed by the various types of tyrannical leaders who capitalize on their people. They capitalize on these poor people and we capitalize on all of the people, including the tyrants, creating what we like to call “free trade.”

The beast of modernity is aggressive and monstrous. It knows no boundaries! It is fed and cared for by those who might feel empowered by its dominating force. Both the major political parties in America are guilty of feeding this beast…and many fallen Christian organizations. She has been around for thousands of years and she has grown to be a very conniving and deceiving force.

Prior to the beginning of the World War in the early 1900s, our communities carried much momentum in spirituality and applying spirituality to the community. The dominating force of nature was harnessed through the Church. The Church maintained the heart of the community because for one, she created the community, but also because she had the answers for the community problems. There was much to be desired, much of what is now being acquired through science and other secular organizations, but the Church was not opposed to science, for instance. The Church simply wanted to harness science, since science was clearly smothered within modernity.

In our day (and rapidly increasing for the last 100 years or more) we do not have the Church to harness modern innovation of any sort. Rather, we have political parties that people lean heavily on for their guidance of modern troubles. But the parties inevitably polarize and the beast of modernity takes one large bit at a time out of us all because we can never iron out what it is that we believe, much less implement it within the culture. Even the polarizations are not fully embraced by each party. They talk big, perhaps hoping that some sort of balance or mix can be accomplished within society, all while forgetting that the Church and her philosophy of life is for this very thing: to build right community!

Secular Nationalism and Orthodox Christians in The Diaspora

The article below is from OrthodoxWiki. It has a loose description of the Orthodox term, ‘diaspora,’ that is used within many of our Divine Liturgy services. The article states that some Orthodox Christians believe “they are living as dispersed peoples, as specific national and ecclesiastical “diasporas.”” Yes, we are, as American Orthodox, living within an ecclesiastical and in some sense national, diaspora.

Orthodoxy is not just a theology, it is an actual movement of people. Our faith results in works. We have patriarchates (fathers of nations). Each one of us is tied to one of these fathers. These five sees are guided by a patriarch. We are the diaspora of these nations. Every one of the five patriarchs was established through the monarchy, through the leadership of the nation, to confirm the fact that each of those nations’ very culture and people was established by the Church. The Church was dedicated, through her patriarch, to help the emperor continue this Orthodox community into our modern times, through the radically changing times of post-Nicea.

If we let go of our “national” commitment to the patriarchate, we let go of a vital piece of history. Obama is not our patriarch! The next Republican president will not  be our patriarch. These men are not even a part of the Church, lest a part of the Church’s community. They are the secular leaders of a secular nation. We live in this nation, but within our Orthodox community. It seems that we should at least begin to understand this fact of history, lest we become swallowed by the secular nationalism of America.

Our identity lies within our Orthodox community…her history and her current status. We must be humble about being American Orthodox. We are an extension of a greater community, one that has roots in real time and space from the apostles themselves. The more we come to realize this within our spirit, the more sense we can make out of our confused world, thus drawing closer to Christ.

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Sobornost in the Fourth Century

Russian Cross SunsetThe Canons to Sylvester from the Council of Arles (A.D. 314)

It was excommunication all together for many in the fourth century who joined such things as secular government, acting, and other polarizations of Christian community and sanctification. Certainly, with the lack of Sobornost in our day, we should not even think to be this strict. But the equity of these laws must remain. In other words, should secular government, for instance, be high on the list of our occupational choices? How about acting? Things to ponder and pray about.

 

Incipit: Quid decreuerimus
Date: 314
Ancient Source: Select manuscripts from various collections of canon law, including the Corbie, Diessen, Koln, and Rheims collections, and others.
Modern edition used: C. Munier, Concilia Galliae a.314-a.506, (Turnhout: Brepols 1963), pp. 9-13

Note: In the manuscript tradition there is slight variation in the numbering of canons 9-17, as noted below.

The assembly of bishops who were gathered at the town of Arles, to our lord and most holy brother Sylvester:

That which we in common council have decreed, we hereby make known to your most esteemed person, so that also <all> the bishops might know what ought to be observed in the future.

1. In the first place, concerning the celebration of Easter Sunday: That it be observed by us on one day and at one time in all the earth, and that you should send out letters to all, as is the custom.

2. Concerning those who have been ordained ministers in certain places: They are to continue to serve in those same places.

3. Concerning those who lay down their weapons in peacetime,[1] be it resolved that they be excluded from fellowship.

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Whose Side Is God on Now?

Fantastic article from American politician, Pat Buchanan! Recent liberals, worldwide, have criticized him for this article. He seems to understand that Orthodoxy retains the power of the Holy Spirit to “make disciples of all nations.” Orthodoxy is not a set of doctrines or spiritual ideas, it is much more than that! Orthodoxy is spiritual dominion. Orthodoxy is missional. She plants the Church and the Church grows into communities and even nations. That IS the history of Orthodoxy.

By Patrick Buchanan

In his Kremlin defense of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Vladimir Putin, even before he began listing the battles where Russian blood had been shed on Crimean soil, spoke of an older deeper bond.

Crimea, said Putin, “is the location of ancient Khersones, where Prince Vladimir was baptized. His spiritual feat of adopting Orthodoxy predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilization and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.”

Russia is a Christian country, Putin was saying.

This speech recalls last December’s address where the former KGB chief spoke of Russia as standing against a decadent West:

“Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values. Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan. This is the path to degradation.”

Heard any Western leader, say, Barack Obama, talk like that lately?

Indicting the “Bolsheviks” who gave away Crimea to Ukraine, Putin declared, “May God judge them.”

What is going on here?

With Marxism-Leninism a dead faith, Putin is saying the new ideological struggle is between a debauched West led by the United States and a traditionalist world Russia would be proud to lead.

In the new war of beliefs, Putin is saying, it is Russia that is on God’s side. The West is Gomorrah.

Western leaders who compare Putin’s annexation of Crimea to Hitler’s Anschluss with Austria, who dismiss him as a “KGB thug,” who call him “the alleged thief, liar and murderer who rules Russia,” as the Wall Street Journal’s Holman Jenkins did, believe Putin’s claim to stand on higher moral ground is beyond blasphemous.

But Vladimir Putin knows exactly what he is doing, and his new claim has a venerable lineage. The ex-Communist Whittaker Chambers who exposed Alger Hiss as a Soviet spy, was, at the time of his death in 1964, writing a book on “The Third Rome.”

The first Rome was the Holy City and seat of Christianity that fell to Odoacer and his barbarians in 476 A.D. The second Rome was Constantinople, Byzantium, (today’s Istanbul), which fell to the Turks in 1453. The successor city to Byzantium, the Third Rome, the last Rome to the old believers, was — Moscow.

Putin is entering a claim that Moscow is the Godly City of today and command post of the counter-reformation against the new paganism.

Putin is plugging into some of the modern world’s most powerful currents.

Not only in his defiance of what much of the world sees as America’s arrogant drive for global hegemony. Not only in his tribal defense of lost Russians left behind when the USSR disintegrated.

He is also tapping into the worldwide revulsion of and resistance to the sewage of a hedonistic secular and social revolution coming out of the West.

In the culture war for the future of mankind, Putin is planting Russia’s flag firmly on the side of traditional Christianity. His recent speeches carry echoes of John Paul II whose Evangelium Vitae in 1995 excoriated the West for its embrace of a “culture of death.”

What did Pope John Paul mean by moral crimes?

The West’s capitulation to a sexual revolution of easy divorce, rampant promiscuity, pornography, homosexuality, feminism, abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, assisted suicide — the displacement of Christian values by Hollywood values.

Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum writes that she was stunned when in Tbilisi to hear a Georgian lawyer declare of the former pro-Western regime of Mikhail Saakashvili, “They were LGBT.”

“It was an eye-opening moment,” wrote Applebaum. Fear and loathing of the same-sex-marriage pandemic has gone global. In Paris, a million-man Moral Majority marched in angry protest.

Author Masha Gessen, who has written a book on Putin, says of his last two years, “Russia is remaking itself as the leader of the anti-Western world.”

But the war to be waged with the West is not with rockets. It is a cultural, social, moral war where Russia’s role, in Putin’s words, is to “prevent movement backward and downward, into chaotic darkness and a return to a primitive state.”

Would that be the “chaotic darkness” and “primitive state” of mankind, before the Light came into the world?

This writer was startled to read in the Jan-Feb. newsletter from the social conservative World Council of Families in Rockford, Ill., that, of the “ten best trends” in the world in 2013, number one was “Russia Emerges as Pro-Family Leader.”

In 2013, the Kremlin imposed a ban on homosexual propaganda, a ban on abortion advertising, a ban on abortions after 12 weeks and a ban on sacrilegious insults to religious believers.

“While the other super-powers march to a pagan world-view,” writes WCF’s Allan Carlson, “Russia is defending Judeo-Christian values. During the Soviet era, Western communists flocked to Moscow. This year, World Congress of Families VII will be held in Moscow, Sept. 10-12.”

Will Vladimir Putin give the keynote?

In the new ideological Cold War, whose side is God on now?

Trust Not In Princes

Orthodox Christianity teaches that the Gospel is community oriented – community led by the Church. When we grow in a culture, as we did in Russia, Greece, and many other eastern communities, we counseled and in many cases and times, led the governmental administration of the land. When the Church has the opportunity to do this (historically, this has been the case within Holy Monarchy) we take this opportunity as a God given task and calling. We even set the leaders aside, much like we do with the ordination of a priest.

When Orthodoxy DOES NOT have the opportunity to work with the government like she has within historical Orthodox countries, Orthodox Christians really have no theological support to be a “party person.” In other words, to consistently identify as a Republican or Democrat is simply not Orthodox, not in the patristic and historic sense.

American political parties are not required to hold to Orthodox theological dogma. They are only required to hold to the historical documents of America, which are very Unitarian and Masonic in nature. Even praising the seemingly positive works of a party is dangerous because the outcome will not likely be honest, thus creating confusion in the culture as to what a true Christian ethic really is. The party may state that they will do this or that, and hold to a particular Christian ethic, but in the end, they are not required to hold to such dogma, and they often do not hold to them, even when they say they will.

As the Holy Fathers teach us, and we pray in our liturgy, we do not look for princes to save us and deliver us from our calamities. Granted, if God gives us a land to manage, we should manage it and involve the Church in managing it, just as Orthodox countries have always done. But when a land has clearly NOT been given to us and there is a very secular organization leading, who wants no part of Orthodoxy, should we really force ourselves on them or even pretend to be a part of their movement?

“We’re beginning to agree that Republicans and Democrats suck – they’ve built this machine to grind people into the ground,” he said.” I hate this stuff. I hate politics. I hate politicians, and I feel I’m wasting my life. Don’t we all know what’s happening? George W. Bush was taking us down a road, and Barack Obama is taking us down that same road. What difference does it make? I don’t want to waste my life anymore.”

The above is a recent statement from Glen Beck. Seems he finally is seeing over the horizon regarding America. Both parties do not share the interest of the Church, therefor they share the interest of self!

Head of the House of Romanov Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna on Ukraine

1. Your Imperial Highness, how do you feel about Crimea becoming part of Russia? Has a historical injustice been rectified?

Over the course of many centuries, my ancestors united many disparate lands into a single Russian State. Crimea is rightfully considered one of the grand “pearls” that adorned our realm.

The Imperial House has always supported the processes of unity and centralization. But if I were simply to say that I was pleased about the return of Crimea to Russia, or that I think that this was the rectification of a historical injustice, then I would be giving a very incomplete and simplistic answer to your question.

I proceed from the firm belief that even with things the way they are today, with the demise of the territorial integrity of the former Russian Empire and USSR and the emergence of new sovereign states, there continues to exist a single spiritual and cultural civilization in this space, which unites these fraternal nations. There may be many states now, but there remains only one Fatherland, in the truest sense of the meaning of that word—one, because our fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers have together offered their blood and sweat for it.

And so we can hardly welcome without reservation every acquisition of a new slice of territory. It is necessary always to consider if this specific instance will not end up damaging our common civilization, will be nothing more than a time bomb that will someday explode, will only spawn new problems in the interrelations between nations.

Each such instance is entirely unique. And if circumstances in Ukraine and Crimea were different, I would think it necessary to act more cautiously. In my address to all my Ukrainian countrymen on February 21, I called upon them to avoid violence, to resist the temptation for revenge, and to do everything within their power to preserve the territorial integrity of Ukraine. As we know, the Crimea was incorporated into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954 by a totalitarian regime in a completely arbitrary way, without considering the opinion of the people of Crimea or even asking them what they wanted. But it would be just as wrong today to reincorporate Crimea into Russia in the same way. One unlawful act cannot be undone by another unlawful act or by violence. If there had not arisen a very real threat to the welfare of the people of Crimea, to the life and dignity of its citizens, then I would have held to the view that Ukraine should remain within its historic borders as they had been drawn up to the present.

Unfortunately, there was a revolution in Kiev, and the new leaders have taken a series of extremist and openly vengeful steps, which have led to a split among the Ukrainian people. Extreme nationalists who control the government in Kiev began by passing a number of discriminatory and demeaning measures with regard to the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine, meeting any dissent with brutal violence. There were overt threats against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. There were anti-Semitic speeches with an undisguised Nazi undertone. I consider all this a dreadful and criminal mistake that borders on lunacy.

In the current situation, the duty of the legally elected authorities in Crimea was to protect the population from all excesses—not only at present, but also in the future. I know almost all the leaders of Crimea. They are sensible, experienced, and steady statesmen. There is no hint of extremism in them. They did not make this decision on their own authority; they organized a referendum. We know now the results of that referendum. The results are not the result of some passing gush of emotion, but are based on the entire history of Crimea, on its traditions going back many centuries. The people of Crimea have expressed their will. In a democracy, in which the supreme power constitutionally belongs to the people, there is no higher power that exists than the voice of the people.

We can say with complete confidence that the unification of Crimea with Russia was not the result of some political machinations that were dreamt up in advance by someone or other, but the logical result of historical events in Ukraine.

If the number of supporters of the unification of Crimea with Russia were only slightly more than the number of those opposing it, then the results of the referendum could be treated with some circumspection, so that a decision as important as this would not be decided by a small fraction of the vote, but would rather show the need still to form a consensus on the question. But it is evident even with the naked eye that the Crimean referendum was conducted in an atmosphere of unity, jubilation, and honestly. The majority of the people of Crimea want to return their small Homeland to being a part of Russia. It is a fait accompli.

I share the enthusiasm of the peoples of Russia and Crimea over the unity that they have achieved. At the same time, I understand the frustration and disappointment of the people of Ukraine, and I am distressed for them. I can express my feelings best with the words of the Holy Apostle Paul: I “rejoice with others when they rejoice, and I weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).

2. In your estimation, where should the capital of Crimea be?

I had not heard that there was any discussion about this question. From the point of view of historical symbolism, the Crimea has many glorious cities, any one of which could make a good case to be the capital of Crimea. But to transfer the seat of government from one city to another is a costly affair. The Crimea has more important tasks ahead, which must be resolved immediately for the benefit of the people. So I would suppose that the capital would remain in Simferopol. But, in any case, this will be something that will be resolved by the legally elected authorities in accordance with the will of the Crimean people.

3. How do you assess the situation in Ukraine? What do you think will be the future relations between Russia and Ukraine?

The troubles that have gripped Ukraine have brought me and my son, Tsesarevich and Grand Duke George of Russia, tremendous emotional anguish. I have been to Kiev and Odessa; and not long ago George and I were in Crimea. Everywhere we saw how Ukrainians of different ethnic backgrounds, faiths, and political beliefs nonetheless lived together in peace. And this has all now completely changed! And at the moment Ukraine is, without exaggeration, being torn to pieces by revolution, with all the accompanying horrors that accompany it. I pray that all this does not develop into a full-scale fratricidal civil war.

Russia and Ukraine are fraternal countries, and it cannot be any other way. Ukraine is the cradle of the Russian state. No political forces can ever destroy the genetic, spiritual, and cultural kinship that binds together our peoples.

In any case, one cannot see the joining of Crimea to Russia as a “victory of Russia over Ukraine.” “Victory” over one’s own brothers and sisters always turns into defeat. I am certain that the crisis in relations between Russia and Ukraine will be resolved, that the spirit of confrontation will evaporate away, and that love and common sense will prevail.

4. How justified is the criticism of the West against Russia over the Crimean situation, and how justified are the sanctions? Will you be asking the royal houses of Europe to intervene to help alleviate the pressures being put on Russia?

Alas, we see unfairness and an outright double standard.

Naturally, every country defends its own interests and advances its own policies. It would be foolish to resent the fact that the USA or Russia’s other geopolitical rivals take no pleasure in Russia’s expansion and even try to hinder it.

But there are multiple examples of military intervention by the West in the internal affairs of sovereign states. The recognition of the independence of Kosovo and other similar precedents make the current position of Western governments very flimsy, and their argument utterly untenable. Even if we conceded to some degree to their logic, the question nonetheless arises: “Who are they to judge?”

Sanctions are also an unprecedented thing. Even during the “Cold War,” these kinds of sanctions were never imposed against the USSR or its leaders. And back then there really were many more occasions that might have elicited sanctions, with a totalitarian regime in power in our country that really did trample on freedom of conscience and thought and really did repress its people and had many times intervened militarily in the affairs of other countries.

One must bear in mind that sanctions are a two-edged sword. They harm the economy not only of Russia but also the economies of Europe. In the extremely complex circumstances of this global crisis, it makes no sense to play these political games.

Russia is a great country that can withstand the effects of any sanctions. To engage in threats and blackmail with Russia is counterproductive.

In the today’s political system, royal houses, even ones that reign, cannot, alas, exert any decisive influence on the policies of their countries. Therefore any appeals I might make to them about this matter would not be of any help. Of course, in communicating with my royal relatives, I will try to familiarize them with all the aspects of the problem and I will ask them to use all their influence to prevent any escalation of the conflict between Russia and Europe. Many of them were together with me and George in Crimea in September of last year, at the invitation of the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, for the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the House of Romanoff. They met with the Speaker of the Supreme Council, Vladimir Konstantinov, and with other Crimean leaders, and they know firsthand about the life of the people of Crimea. But more than anything else, I am counting on the common sense of Western politicians and on the expression of public opinion among the peoples of Western countries. Everyone would suffer from the resumption of the “Cold War,” and, possibly, the losses and damages to Russia would be less than for others.

From http://www.interfax-russia.ru/default.asp

Liberalism’s New Bogeyman

Liberalism's New Bogeyman

Liberalism’s New Bogeyman

By Michael McGregor

With the world seeming to settle into a neo-Cold War paradigm, it’s becoming clearer that America’s policymakers are desperate to turn Russia back into the evil empire in the eyes of the general public. During the Soviet days, this was easy task to accomplish with ready made villains like Stalin in charge and the all too visible problems of a communist economy.

The Russian Federation is a little trickier, as it has no definitive ideology, is led by a guy even diehard Russophobes think is a badass, and has no gulag system to point to and ponder in terror.

Enter Western media hysteria circling around a certain Russian intellectual and the radical ideology he promotes – Alexandr Dugin. If there is a single individual that could be used to frighten the policymakers and intelligentsia of America into irrationally hating Russia, it’s not Putin — it’s Alexandr Dugin.

I wrote previously how National Review wailed about his presence within Russian intelligentsia and his apparent influence on current Russian foreign policy. Now the wails are shared by left wing publications who see Dugin as Putin’s “Neo-Fascist” ideologue who’s formulating the regime’s rejection of gay “rights” and aggressive foreign policy.

They’ve managed to find quotes of him praising fascism from the early 90s, bashing the liberal values that our intelligentsia holds so dear and stating positions are deemed “archaic” in the West of the 21st century. They’ve noticed his Eurasianist ideology is incredibly illiberal and promotes values and notions that liberalism will sweep away once the imminent “end of history” arrives.

Seeing an enemy with a coherent ideology and philosophy that they find repugnant – our more intellectually-inclined media outlets are now trying to make the connection between Dugin’s ideas and Putin’s actions.

Foreign Affairs published a piece that attempted that very same feat where they went so far as to call Dugin “Putin’s Brain.” In spite of placing the Russian president’s façade at the top, the only direct connection they could make between the philosopher and the leader is that Dugin has influenced Putin’s economic adviser Sergei Glazyev. No matter – they still go into detail about Dugin’s philosophy and why it should trouble their readers:

His ideas of conservative revolution are adapted from German interwar thinkers who promoted the destruction of the individualistic liberal order and the commercial culture of industrial and urban civilization in favor of a new order based on conservative values such as the submission of individual needs and desires to the needs of the many, a state-organized economy, and traditional values for society based on a quasi-religious view of the world.

Like the classical Eurasianists of the 1920s and 1930s, Dugin’s ideology is anti-Western, anti-liberal, totalitarian, ideocratic, and socially traditional. Its nationalism is not Slavic-oriented (although Russians have a special mission to unite and lead) but also applies to the other nations of Eurasia. And it labels rationalism as Western and thus promotes a mystical, spiritual, emotional, and messianic worldview.

This new attack on Dugin launched a flurry of coverage from other outlets – from The Daily Beast on the left and The Weekly Standard on the “right.” Not surprisingly, the Standard went the most extravagant in portraying Dugin as a neo-Nazi mystic hell bent on destroying freedom. All of the pieces on the author of The Fourth Political Theory were incredibly critical and designed to make the reader gain a negative impression of Russia and Dugin. I assume the US State Department should be proud of its efforts at journalism outreach.

If you want a good representation of the views of Dugin, don’t read this articles with an uncritical eye and instead, read his great post on Western hostility towards Russia that waspublished here at RadixJournal. You’ll see why he’s gone from an obscure figure in the West to a dreaded menace in our sphere following the escalation of tensions with his native land.

Disregarding the hyperbole and demonization of Dugin, the reason liberal internationalists want him in the same picture as Putin is to strengthen their desired mindset that Russia is the greatest threat against their ideology. He rebukes the mantra of human rights and promotes tradition and community over abstract notions of individuality that are revered by our leaders.

Just look at President Obama’s speech before the European Union in Brussels for an example of this devotion to universal human rights:

Do not think for a moment that your own freedom, your own prosperity, that your own moral imagination is bound by the limits of your community, your ethnicity or even your country. You’re bigger than that. You can help us to choose a better history. That’s what Europe tells us. That’s what the American experience is all about.

Eurasianism (and Identitarianism) rejects that statement. The thought that Putin might also reject it gives the transnational elite jitters that the “end of history” might not be preferable to every major power. Putin, who’s not a Eurasianist and is simply promoting the power and influence of the state he governs, is becoming more of a hostile actor to the West as Russia’s interests increasingly collide with those of the Davos set.

Foreign Affairs concluded with the primary worry that Dugin could become a major influence on the future leadership of his country and Eurasianism becoming the reigning ideology of Russia:

Dugin’s ideology has influenced a whole generation of conservative and radical activists and politicians, who, if given the chance, would fight to adapt its core principles as state policy. Considering the shabby state of Russian democracy, and the country’s continued move away from Western ideas and ideals, one might argue that the chances of seeing neo-Eurasianism conquer new ground are increasing. Although Dugin’s form of it is highly theoretical and deeply mystical, it is proving to be a strong contender for the role of Russia’s chief ideology.

We can only hope that becomes the case.

Comments on Dugin are welcome. But please, do not attempt to draw up a straw man argument against him as if America, or any other western country has produced a  leader that has made more sense than he has. Dugin is an Orthodox Christian (Old Rite) and seems to be applying an Orthodox worldview to his actions in Russia.  A national (community) leader of our day must face the likes of Islam and other historical cultures with wisdom, unlike most all western leaders have. Dugin knows that Orthodoxy is Russia’s backbone…her roots. He also knows that other countries will be best suited, in our modern times, if they embrace their historical foundations. Should we disagree with that? 

Russia will not import GMO products – PM Medvedev

RIA Novosti / Maksim BogodvidRIA Novosti / Maksim Bogodvid

Russia will not import GMO products, the country’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said, adding that the nation has enough space and resources to produce organic food.

Moscow has no reason to encourage the production of genetically modified products or import them into the country, Medvedev told a congress of deputies from rural settlements on Saturday.

“If the Americans like to eat GMO products, let them eat it then. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food,” he said.

The prime minister said he ordered widespread monitoring of the agricultural sector. He added that despite rather strict restrictions, a certain amount of GMO products and seeds have made it to the Russian market.

 

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev speaks at a meeting of United Russia deputies from Russian rural villages in Volgograd on April 5, 2014. (RIA Novosti / Ekaterina Shtukina)Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev speaks at a meeting of United Russia deputies from Russian rural villages in Volgograd on April 5, 2014. (RIA Novosti / Ekaterina Shtukina)

 

Earlier, agriculture minister Nikolay Fyodorov also stated that Russia should remain free of genetically modified products.

At the end of February, the Russian parliament asked the government to impose a temporary ban on all genetically altered products in Russia.

The State Duma’s Agriculture Committee supported a ban on the registration and trade of genetically modified organisms. It was suggested that until specialists develop a working system of control over the effects of GMOs on humans and the natural environment, the government should impose a moratorium on the breeding and growth of genetically modified plants, animals, and microorganisms.

Earlier this month, MPs of the parliamentary majority United Russia party, together with the ‘For Sovereignty’ parliamentary group, suggested an amendment of the existing law On Safety and Quality of Alimentary Products, with a norm set for the maximum allowed content of transgenic and genetically modified components.

There is currently no limitation on the trade or production of GMO-containing food in Russia. However, when the percentage of GMO exceeds 0.9 percent, the producer must label such goods and warn consumers. Last autumn, the government passed a resolution allowing the listing of genetically modified plants in the Unified State Register. The resolution will come into force in July.

Your Ancestors Didn’t Sleep Like You

Your ancestors didn't sleep like you

Ok, maybe your grandparents probably slept like you. And your great, great-grandparents. But once you go back before the 1800s, sleep starts to look a lot different. Your ancestors slept in a way that modern sleepers would find bizarre – they slept twice. And so can you.

The History

The existence of our sleeping twice per night was first uncovered by Roger Ekirch, professor of History at Virginia Tech.

His research found that we didn’t always sleep in one eight hour chunk. We used to sleep in two shorter periods, over a longer range of night. This range was about 12 hours long, and began with a sleep of three to four hours, wakefulness of two to three hours, then sleep again until morning.

References are scattered throughout literature, court documents, personal papers, and the ephemera of the past. What is surprising is not that people slept in two sessions, but that the concept was so incredibly common. Two-piece sleeping was the standard, accepted way to sleep.

“It’s not just the number of references – it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge,” Ekirch says.

An English doctor wrote, for example, that the ideal time for study and contemplation was between “first sleep” and “second sleep.” Chaucer tells of a character in the Canterbury Tales that goes to bed following her “firste sleep.” And, explaining the reason why working class conceived more children, a doctor from the 1500s reported that they typically had sex after their first sleep.

Ekirch’s book At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past is replete with such examples.

But just what did people do with these extra twilight hours? Pretty much what you might expect.

Most stayed in their beds and bedrooms, sometimes reading, and often they would use the time to pray. Religious manuals included special prayers to be said in the mid-sleep hours.

Others might smoke, talk with co-sleepers, or have sex. Some were more active and would leave to visit with neighbours.

As we know, this practice eventually died out. Ekirch attributes the change to the advent of street lighting and eventually electric indoor light, as well as the popularity of coffee houses. Author Craig Koslofsky offers a further theory in his book Evening’s Empire. With the rise of more street lighting, night stopped being the domain of criminals and sub-classes and became a time for work or socializing. Two sleeps were eventually considered a wasteful way to spend these hours.

No matter why the change happened, shortly after the turn of the 20th century the concept of two sleeps had vanished from common knowledge.

Until about 1990.

The Science

Two sleeps per night may have been the method of antiquity, but tendencies towards it still linger in modern man. There could be an innate biological preference for two sleeps, given the right circumstances.

In the early ‘90s, psychiatrist Thomas Wehr of National Institutes of Mental Health conducted a study on photoperiodicity (exposure to light), and its effect on sleep patterns.

In his study, fifteen men spent four weeks with their daylight artificially restricted. Rather than staying up and active the usual sixteen hours per day, they would stay up only ten. The other fourteen hours they would be in a closed, dark room, where they would rest or sleep as much as possible. This mimics the days in mid-winter, with short daylight and long nights.

At first, the participants would sleep huge stretches of time, likely making up for sleep debt that’scommon among modern people. Once they had caught up on their sleep though, a strange thing started to happen.

They began to have two sleeps.

Over a twelve hour period, the participants would typically sleep for about four or five hours initially, then wake for several hours, then sleep again until morning. They slept not more than eight hours total.

The middle hours of the night, between two sleeps, was characterized by unusual calmness, likened to meditation. This was not the middle-of-the-night toss-and-turn that many of us experienced. The individuals did not stress about falling back asleep, but used the time to relax.

Russell Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford, points out that even with standard sleep patterns, this night waking isn’t always cause for concern. “Many people wake up at night and panic,” he says. “I tell them that what they are experiencing is a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern.”

Outside of a scientific setting, this kind of sleep pattern is still attainable, but it does require changing our modern, electric lifestyle. Very cool person J. D. Moyer did just that. He and his family intentionally went an entire month with no electric light.

In the winter months, this meant a lot of darkness and a lot of sleep. Moyer writes “…I would go to bed really early, like 8:30, and then get up around 2:30am.  This was alarming at first, but then I remembered that this sleep pattern was quite common in pre-electric light days.  When this happened I would end up reading or writing by candlelight for an hour or two, then going back to bed.”

Moyer didn’t set out to reproduce our ancestors sleep pattern, it just happened as a byproduct of a lot of dark hours.

Should We Revive Two Sleeps?

Although history shows that two sleeping was common, and science indicates that it is (in some conditions) natural, there is no indication that it is better. Two sleeps may leave you feeling more rested, but this could simply be because you are intentionally giving yourself more time to rest, relax, and sleep. Giving the same respect to the single, eight-hour sleep should be just as effective.

Note too that two sleeping needs a lot of darkness – darkness that is only possible naturally during the winter months. The greater levels of daylight during summer and other seasons would make two sleeping difficult, or even impossible.

Perhaps two sleeping is merely a coping mechanism to get through the long, cold, boring nights of the winter. Today, we don’t need to cope. So long as we give our sleep the time and respect it needs, getting the “standard” eight hours of sleep should be fine.

But next time you wake up at 2 AM and can’t sleep, just remember your great, great, great, great, great grandfather. He did the same thing every night.

 From slumberwise.com

Update

Well this article proved exceedingly popular! Thank you to everyone who visited, or took the time to leave a comment. I would encourage new visitors to have a read through the comments below for some interesting ideas and perspectives. I learned two things in particular:

1. This is far more common that I thought. A lot of commenters either practice, or used to practice this kind of sleep.

2. Another possible reason for two sleeps is tending the fire during the night. Several clever readers noted that in order to keep a fire running through the night, we would need to get up and tend it.

Commenters also raised questions regarding non-European and non-Western cultures, which we’ll be digging into in future articles. For anyone who wants to learn more about this kind of sleep, I’ve linked below to two books referenced in the writing of this article, available on Amazon.

Secular Universities Produce Secular Minds…and Culture

Many millennials are skipping church, marriage and political affiliations, study finds

BY JESSE J. HOLLAND, ASSOCIATED PRESS

126314316WASHINGTON — Young adults like to think of themselves as independent, but when it comes to politics, they’re more likely than not to lean to the left.

Half of American adults ages 18 to 33 are self-described political independents, according to a survey out Friday, but at the same time half of these so-called millennials are Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, the highest share for any age group over the last decade.

In addition, young adults tend to be single and churchless — turning away from their predecessors’ proclivity for religion and marriage, according the Pew Research Center survey. Almost two-thirds don’t classify themselves as “a religious person.” And when it comes to tying the knot: Only about 1 in 4 millennials is married. Almost half of baby boomers were married at that age.

The new survey shows how the millennial adults are “forging a distinctive path into adulthood,” said Paul Taylor, Pew’s executive vice president and co-author of the report.

[Read more…]

The “Western Diet” (By Dr Mercola)

By Dr. Mercola

McDonald’s is the poster child for the modern Western diet and all the health problems that it engenders. As a general rule, “food” was designed to supply your body with all the nutrients it needs.

Processing destroys many of the nutrients and is the primary contribution to most of the chronic degenerative diseases many experience today. I would also argue that food processed to the point of not decomposing after more than a decade is not actually real food and shouldn’t be consumed…

Ironically, the fast food giant recently ended up with a PR nightmare after suggesting its own employees forgo fast food fare for healthier options like salad and water. As reported by Business Insider:1

“Several excerpts from the posts, which were created from a third-party vendor, warned against the negative effects of fast food, even going so far as labeling a cheeseburger and fries, core items on its menu, as an ‘unhealthy choice.'”

The site also warned employees that fast-food meals are “almost always high” in calories, fat, sugar, and salt—and rightfully so, I might add. Warning employees of the health hazards of the very food they produce and serve, however, does not make for good PR.

In response to the controversy, McDonald’s shut down the website in question, which was aimed at providing “work and life advice” to employees. According to a company spokesman,2 the information was “taken out of context,” thereby generating “unwarranted scrutiny and inappropriate commentary.” Employees will still be able to receive work and life advice over the phone.

[Read more…]

On Modernity, Russia, and the Olympics

 

This is a great article to read at Taki’s Magazine, but these two paragraphs of the article stand out as quite truthful! 

“Which brings me back to Russia. Why was the media so anxious to paint Russia as a brutal authoritarian state with a modern Stalin at its head?… Why: Because criticizing Muslims might get his head blown off—cut off, rather—and Nigerians are black, hence above criticism and boycotts. In Nigeria, corruption pervades life top to bottom and is getting worse, not better. Saudi Arabia, of course, enslaves foreign workers, stones adulterers, and sticks women indoors, but it’s Putin we go after week in and week out. In 1980 Uncle Sam boycotted the Moscow Olympics because the USSR had invaded Afghanistan. Twenty-two years later Uncle Sam copied the Russian bear, so go figure.

Another thing the West cannot abide with is Russia’s turn toward Christianity since the collapse of Godless communism. Our elite view this as a backward step, Christianity being their favorite whipping boy nowadays. The big corporations, of course, are anti-Russian and anti-Putin because they’re refused total access to the land’s mineral wealth and natural resources. Russia is not Guatemala and does not sell her lands to Western investors. The big crooks, as in oligarchs, are already settled in the West, Britain, France, and Israel. They stole everything they could, bought football teams, laundered their moolah, and are now our problem, not Russia’s. We bow and scrape to these barbarians the way we bow and scrape in front of the Saudis and Qataris, camel drivers who should never be allowed on European soil because of their human-rights violations back home against minorities, women, gays, and foreign workers. Yet it’s Putin who wears the black hat.”

Read the entire article at: http://takimag.com/article/the_curse_of_modern_man_taki/print#ixzz2tzr34Gcl

Can We Believe The Bible Without The Bishopric?

CanonHere is a link that helps us understand the fact that the bishopric is the arbitrator of truth and that the Bible, our primary repository of truth, belongs only to the Church that is under this bishopric.

From the link above we can see that there are dozens of early writings that are not in the Bible. In the first few hundred years of the New Testament Church the authority of revelation was verbally transpired by the bishops, to the priests and then to the rest of the Church. In the fourth century the bishops decided which books out of these many would be “canonized.” This Canon of early letters began to be called the Bible.

The Bible is not something that was handed over from the apostles to the people at large! The Bible is a fourth century selection of early Christian writings. When we say that we believe in the Bible, we are saying that we believe in the selection that was accomplished by the bishopric of that time. This means that we believe in the authority of the Church at that time. We believe in the Canon of the Church!

The Bible is a result of Church Council. If you do not believe in the authority of the ancient Church then you cannot believe that the Bible is the actual rule of faith. The authority of the Church is its bishopric, which no modern Christian has a part of. The ancient fathers made it very clear that if one is not under the authority of the Bishop then one is not a part of the Church. Granted, the many modern churches of today that do not have apostolic succession may glean from the Bible and even the Holy Spirit, but one day, hopefully prior to death, they will have to reconcile.

The Bible is what the Church calls, “the Canon.” When someone quotes the Bible they are quoting the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church has what is called “apostolic succession.” This means that the ordination of the ministers is in succession with the Apostles, early Fathers and the councils that they met in to form the Canon (Bible). So to refer to the authority of “the Bible” is to refer to this apostolic Church, the Church that read hundreds of legitimate books within the market of Christianity (like we do today) at the time the Canon was formed (4th century); many that would be absolutely unidentifiable as “inspired” to be a part of the Canon (even though they were) to the average or even scholarly Christian.

An example question that might help us grasp this concept of canonical vs non-canonical is, why can’t I quote a passage from Enoch, for instance, which is quoted in the canonical book of Jude, and is extremely well written with very exciting and thorough theological points, but I can quote Revelation, which is rather confusing and never quoted in the rest of the Bible? The answer is this:

Because the Church deems one over the other as canonical, solely based on their apostolic succession! Christ gave His authority to the Church and this is the way His Spirit works. When we quote the Bible we are quoting the Church, because it is the Church and her bishops that determined what is quotable as Scripture and what is not.

The next question is, how could a person that is not received by a bishop with apostolic succession and who does not believe that God has given these bishops authority over us even believe in the Bible and quote it as if they do believe in it? These people cannot believe in the Bible. It is an impossiblity!

The Modern Christian that does not believe in the authority of the bishopric can only quote a text that is sacred by receiving an epiphany from the Lord, such as Moses and the burning bush or even a prophetic revelation, which that person would then need to be tested as a prophet.

Modern Christian, who is your prophet? Who told you that each of the books in the Bible is “inspired? In order to receive a truly prophetic notion from the Holy Spirit (even if one were a prophet) would be to examine every one of the early documents written in the early church and say “yay or nay.” Aside from the presupposition that the Bishopric already chose the inspired documents, how would this person tell which was which?

Would there be an audible voice? Some sort of apparition? Is it even possible for modern man to discern this selection without the Church? The answer is NO? Without a prophetic voice no deciphering can be made.

The logos (revelation) was given to the Church and not to the printing press. The authority of the logos was given to the Church as an oral tradition. The Church has decided that there are many portions of this tradition that deserve special attention in what we call the Canon. The Church still gives revelation but not as to contradict the Canon. This does not mean that the Church cannot grow and must, for instance, continue to worship in homes like “the Bible says.” The Canon is not a set of rules, it is a revelation that is to be taught and evangelized. The Church will continue to do this like it has from the beginning. And anyone that takes possession of the Bible without the Church is in danger of worshiping the Bible itself.

The Three Bar Cross

Russian Cross SunsetDating back to the first millennium, the “Three Bar Cross” has served the Orthodox Church across the entire world.

The top bar of the cross represents the mockery Christ received as He was taunted as “King of the Jews.”  An Eastern Orthodox Christian Prayer for Friday explains the meaning of the footstool of the cross being slanted toward heaven and the repented thief on His right.

In the midst, between two thieves, was Your Cross found as the balance-beam of righteousness;

For while one was led down to hell by the burden of his blaspheming,

The other was lightened of his sins unto the knowledge of things divine.

O Christ God glory to You

Beware of Liberalism!

Russian Icon of St Michael Toppling the Pillars of Liberalism

Liberalism, a worldview/philosophy that ultimately dates back to the western schism of the Church (where men turned from the canons to relativism), has gained an incredible amount of momentum within the American culture, infiltrating most every historical Protestant denomination, tearing them to shreds. The English Enlightenment and French Revolution catapulted Liberalism within the Protestant groups, cultivating many European communities to turn a blind eye to the coming beast of communism. Russia, as a “neighboring” country, was also infected, resulting in a Marxist revolution, destroying many parishes for many decades during a communist control.

Here are nine points of how ‘American Liberalism’ could begin its excavation in to today’s Orthodoxy. Let us “gird up our loins,” as St Paul says, and stand firm for the Gospel, lest we slowly slip in to the same error as those before us.

1. Liberalism refuses to be specific about the Law of Christ and pointing out what sin looks like, ethically. When it does admit to ethical breach in the Law of Christ, it tends to gravitate toward the hyper Pauline/Protestant view of “we are all sinners” and so sin is sin and therefore no reason to quibble over details. To these liberals, homosexuality, for instance, is no different than a person who struggles with lying. But the Saints, as well as those within the Church clearly mark more grievous sins than others. Some sins, such as homosexuality, have been named by the Church as so sinful, that they have been deemed a crime, and punishable within the civil sphere.

This is how sin corrupts: The more grievous the sin, the more it infects the covenant community, as well as even the civil community at large. Failure to identify sin as such, results in pure nominalism, where doctrine and overall communication of ‘God-Like-Things’ is pushed aside for social endeavors and gossip.

2. Liberalism skirts repentance with psychology and sociology. The Liberal looks into his or her past in order to “find the pain” and locate the true reason for their sin. Rather than taking responsibility for their passions and sins; that they have acquired them through slothfulness and pride, they blame them on society and people within their personal sphere of society. Liberals are always “healing” from these ‘wounds,’ as they call them.

The Church does indeed teach that we are healing, but not from society, rather, from our own sinfulness. Dealing with pain is also important, but using it as a crutch is quite dangerous.

Liberalism has been working like this for decades in the west, thwarting the penal system, lessening sentences and crimes for criminals, and inviting us to tolerate the most heinous sins within our communities.

3. Liberalism looks to secular society for help. Liberals will have no problem donating funds to secular organizations to do what the Church used to do within society. They typically believe that as long as the philanthropic job gets done, then the call of Christ is fulfilled. But Christ says to actually create relationships with the poor, oppressed, and all others who are downcast. He says that we should invite them to our banquets, and love them like brothers and sisters. It’s not about getting the job done, it is about building the kingdom through the Church, one person at a time…making disciples. This is a relational concept, not a business concept.

Liberalism so firmly believes in ‘getting the philanthropic job done’ that they will vote for some of the most unchristian leaders come political election time. The state is taking over the Church’s ministries in so many ways, within America. This reminds me of when the Bolsheviks took control of Russia. One of the first things they did was dismiss the Church from social ministry so that they could take over as an administration, thus becoming “the good guy.”

4. Liberalism also looks to “professionals” such as secular psychiatrists and psychologists to help them with their ministry. Since they cannot call sin, sin, and draw the Christian to repentance, they give up on them and refer them to these so-called professionals. If the psychologist does not work, then perhaps the psychiatrist will!  The reality of the truth is that anyone even trained in gospel ministry on a surface level will be able to help those in need. The gospel message in its entirety, surrounded by the sacraments of the Church, as well as her ascetic requirements (fasting, traditional prayer, etc), a person can be healed from any psychological issue.

5. Liberalism fails to embrace the ascetic and monastic foundation of the gospel. To Liberalism, the ascetic life is a requirement for the monastics but remains more of an option for the rest of the Church. The fathers clearly teach otherwise, that even the more simple ascetic callings such as fasting and giving to the poor, is a vital part of the faith, and cannot be marginalized. The anti-ascetic theory of Jovinian (5th century) was condemned by various fathers, and was condemned in a synod of Rome and the synod of Milan.

One of the many problems with not embracing the ascetic call of the gospel is that the materialistic worldview of the west quickly begins to consume the faithful. We who live in non-Orthodox countries need to be especially aware of this, since materialism and hedonism thrive so well within these secular cultures.

The way of Christ is self-denial and self-mortification, “turning the other cheek,” and turning away from worldly desires as much as able, in order to gain Christ. It is downright impossible to be enlightened in Christ while paying homage to any hedonistic culture. One cannot love both “God and mammon” as Christ explains.

The modern argument against the traditional ascetic life for all is that those who embrace it will become puffed up from it and believe it to be an end rather than a means. But this is because they are not taught that the ascetic call is a means of grace. One must be taught that fasting, for instance, enables us to experience God on a mature level, and if one does not fast to the best of their abilities, they cannot expect their spiritual life to be very healthy. The same goes for all other ascetic qualities that we are taught by Christ and his Church. Christ is not calling all of us to “go and sell everything” to follow him, but he is calling us to “go and sell everything” as each one sees fit. The problem is that Liberalism’s influence has squashed this very worldview in the name of evangelism (drawing in and keeping many people in the pews).

6. Liberalism is anti-family! It is not always intentionally anti-family, but its feministic philosophy muddles the roles of man and woman, which causes much pain within marriage. St Paul calls women to be homemakers and men to be providers of the home. He goes as far as stating that a man that does not provide is “worse than the unbeliever.” He calls the wife to submit to her husband and the man to love his wife regardless of how weak she is.

Liberalism typically sidestep the gender topic all together. The subject is very important to healthy family life. When a woman takes on the role of a man, she belittles the man, and he becomes insecure, which can result in many conflicts. As the saying goes, when a man has a good woman behind him, he can accomplish anything.  Just the opposite is true when a woman is at her husband’s heels; attempting to gain the authority in the home because she feels he is not performing to her standards (feminism empowers her not to be content with her husband’s authority).

7. Liberalism is planted in false piety and false humility. Their modern worldview (as seen above) is attributed to this false piety. The liberal just cannot seem to understand what it means to work out ones salvation through the ascetic life; the life of sacrifice and toil. The liberal finds ways of making themselves feel holy through a modern pandering of acceptance. To love, according to the liberal, is to not be exclusive of other faiths, other forms of ethics, etc. Certainly, God does use jack asses at times to speak to us, as we can see in the Bible. But He does not say to sanction jack asses to speak to us. When he uses such a means, this is a sign that we have not been listening to the avenues that he has originally given us through the Saints.

8. Liberalism refuses to truly acknowledge the return of Christ, The Blessed Hope, as St Paul calls it. It is the other side of the coin to the extreme Evangelical newspaper theology, which overemphasizes current events to prove Christ’s imminent return. Rather, these liberals defame the Second Advent that the apostles and Christ emphasis in the Holy Scripture. You will rarely, if ever, hear a liberal speak publicly about the Second Advent in a positive manner. Rather, if it is mentioned, it is how those kooky Protestants are so off with the subject. These are usually American converts, who haven’t a clue that in Greece and Russia, talk of the second coming is extremely popular. Recently (2013), a number of bishops warned the Christians of Greece NOT to partake of Greece’s new financial system that requires a mark to be adopted, so as not to fall in to what St John states in his writings of ‘the mark.’ Also, Patriarch Kirill, recently stated that the fast growing adoption of gay marriage within many countries, is a sign of the apocalypse. Liberals typically will not endorse these types of statements, or they downplay them as something that should not be a concern.

9. Liberalism within the Church will never cease to accuse those who seek obedience, as “Protestant” or “western” minded. Protestantism as well as Catholicism is indeed smothered with legalism, but to over-correct with antinomianism (anti-law) is just plain ridiculous. And to accuse those who do seek obedience as western, Protestant, or schismatic, is an extreme form of self-deception and arrogance. This antinomianism is a reflection of the first point of this article, which shows how liberals refuse to be consistent regarding sin and the law of Christ.

O Lord God, and eternal King, send O Lord, Your Archangel Michael to help Your servant and deliver me from all my enemies, visible and invisible.

 

Defining Community

Tiny HouseTake a close look at the definition below, found in the latest Webster’s Dictionary. One cannot help but notice how modernized the definition is, offering the traditional definition (Number 1) and the modern (Number 2).

com·mu·ni·ty  kəˈmyo͞onitē/

noun

1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.

“Rhode Island’s Japanese community”

2.a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”The sense of community that organized religion can provide”

Here is the 1828 Webster Dictionary definition:

COMMUNITY, n.

1. Properly, common possession or enjoyment; as a community of goods.It is a confirmation of the original community of all things.

2. A society of people, having common rights and privileges, or common interests, civil, political or ecclesiastical; or living under the same laws and regulations. This word may signify a commonwealth or state, a body politic, or a particular society or order of men within a state, as a community of monks; and it is often used for the public or people in general, without very definite limits.

There seems to be some confusion amongst us, today! We have gone from understanding community in a very real way to understanding it in a very artificial way, as Christians. We have somehow been divided by someone or something and we have actually been accepting it, especially in the West (with America as the heartbeat of this acceptance).

  1. Is community a real concept, where people actually organize their lives together, forming villages and even entire nations? Or is community something that only involves our senses, as the modern definition above suggests it can be?
  2. Can community be either one of the two definitions? If so, how do we reconcile almost two thousand years of the traditional definition?
  3. Why are western – especially American – Christians not willing to embrace the traditional definition?

There are many things that the early, Pre-Nicene- Church retained as she grew from the persecuted Church to the Imperial Church. She retained the personhood of Christ and all of the doctrines that were attached to that, she retained the way we worship and pray, but she also retained something that is extremely important in the Christian faith: Community!

When Christ commanded us to love our neighbor, to feed the poor, to not chase after wealth, and to turn the other cheek, he was not teaching us these things for the sake of an intellectualized dogma-message, rather these things were meant for us to use for community.

In Acts, Chapter Two, we see how this fleshed out, where the entire Church sold all they had to “have all things in common.” There are some modern day scholars and teachers that claim this was for the sake of persecution, and certainly this is true…The Church had to take extreme measure to stand against the pagans of that time. But what happens when we are not being persecuted like that of the first three centuries? Are we to abandon community simply because there is no one being slaughtered in our immediate area, or was Christian community meant to have a much deeper meaning behind it? If we look to Christ and what he commanded from us, we can indeed see that community is far more than about escaping persecution, or somehow saving our flesh.

In our modern day of the more masonic community, where the community revolves not around the Church and the faith, but around institutions that have replaced the ministries of the Church and faith, we may think that community consists of simple connections whenever we have the ability to make them. This can certainly be considered as a valid form of community, but only in a persecuted environment. In other words, if we are persecuted by the state or some other entity, then, yes, we can only meet together when we can meet together.

Are we being persecuted in the West? This is the question. If we are not, then why in the world do we not have what we had before, which is an entire Christian empire? The reason seems elementary: and that is, we are indeed persecuted, because we know that if we tried to build any sort of Christian community in the USA, we would be smashed by local and federal governments with laws that are designed to stop this sort of economical and spiritual growth. We simply cannot get away with it…unless we were united in the faith, which of course, we are not. Diversity in the west is honored!

The Ultimate Deception

The ultimate deception of our age is that we have become numb to what the Christian life is all about, and that is, to be the salt of the earth. When Christ commands us to be the salt and light of the earth, he does not ask us to build a network of ceremony buildings (churches), he commands us to build community. This is why the Church became an empire, and continued to grow across the earth as an empire for many centuries. We are called to evangelize people into a community, a real community, and not a mere ceremony, not “a feeling of fellowship with others” as the modern definition states. Indeed, it all starts as a ceremony, but it cannot and must not stop at the ceremony. Saint James says that an unstable man is one that looks in the mirror, and then forgets what he looks like when he walks away. We cannot and must not become reflective in ceremony and then forget how it actually manifests in our lives.

One will say that the Gospel manifests in our lives through “love” and “caring,” etc. Yes, but what does this actually look like? How does it pan out into creation itself?

No Christian will deny that our worship is to manifest in good works, but many, I think, will deny that these good works manifest in to martyrdom! Imagine if the early Christians were not willing to be martyred. Imagine if they simply submitted to the Roman government and only became a ceremonial community. Imaging if they did not insist that the community at large be infiltrated by Christ. This is what they did; they refused to allow the government to place Christ as just one of the many pagan gods. They refused to give allegiance to the state, rather than the community of Christ. They could have escaped much persecution if they just bowed to the pagan czar, and then walked out of the court believing that bow was only ‘outward’ and that the real work was to evangelize a ceremonial community alone!

When we read the stories of the early martyrs we see how men and women stood for the very advancement of real and living community, a community that was interdependent on one another, who where dedicated to Christ’s will on earth as it is in heaven.

So, what do we do? We cannot all move to Greece or Russia to help them revive. We cannot revolt and convert America through the current evangelistic strategy we currently have. We really cannot even take a stand for “the east.’” In other words, we cannot say “I stand for Russian, etc.”  The reason is that Russia may or may not make it back to being the empire of Christ. Prophesy says they will for a short time, but where does that leave us Western people, if it is only temporal, just before Christ’s return?

Does it leave us to just throw in the towel and enjoy what we believe to be from God….Walmart, Costco, Hollywood, etc? I don’t think so. I think it might mean speaking out as a fool for Christ! It might mean speaking, and speaking, and speaking, until our tongues are cut out like that of St Maximus…Well maybe not, but perhaps it means becoming very ascetic, praying in silence, forsaking worldliness for the return of the King. Or maybe it means making serious and positive changes in your life, regarding your family and church. Whatever it may be that you pursue, it is likely going to revolve around something that the current secular culture does not approve of. The road is narrow, and there are few who find it, Christ says!

What does this road look like for you?

America…From an American Perspective

America…From an American Perspective

It is harder than most people in the world think, to be an American…a cradle American, one that has lived within the culture for most of their life. We are thought to be very satisfied people with much freedom and luxury, a people to be envied. It is quite possible to live in luxury in the USA, and it is also possible to feel like you are free. But what is required of us to live and feel like this?

If one buys in to the following, they can be American, and carry no burden:

  1. That America is founded on Christianity (or some sort of refined ethic of Christianity).
  2. That the so-called “founding fathers” were related to this “Christian country founding” and that they somehow created a more perfect England.
  3. That American slavery was something that we have repented of and that it never gave birth to more slavery.
  4. That America WAS a great country and NOW just needs to return to these supposed great roots.
  5. That America is accepting (or can be by its very construct) of other cultures and faiths as long as they do not force their culture or beliefs on others.
  6. That America has a “free enterprise” which enables us to ethically practice most any vocation we want and grow this vocation as large as we want (into a company, etc).
  7. That Americans can achieve the highest possible form of spirituality, within their given faith, and still remain loyal to American culture and thought.
  8. That America can somehow construct a country that pleases a variety of faiths without having to be centered on any one particular faith.
  9. That we have earned what we have…to the point of being justified in raising arms (weaponry) when these elements are being threatened to be taken away.
  10. That all of the above is some sort of “conspiracy” and that American eighth grade history and overall education is adequate for us all.

One day, when I am old and secluded, I hope to be able to appease the mass American culture by selling them on the ten points listed above, offering a volume or two of proofs, published by a large corporation. But even then, many will refuse to believe! But perhaps by then, the old veterans (God bless their hearts) and retired businessman of America will no longer be here to lobby their thoughts into the media, public education, and religious institutions.

So for this article, I am attempting to persuade with conversational thought…that is, with a more palatable knowledge that is ‘transferable.’ I believe this is an important way to communicate to Americans due to two things:

  1. Most Americans do not like to read, and when they do (or want to collect information, in general), it is through short articles, movies, or books that only make it to corporate publishers (books that sell to the masses).
  2. Oral, more conversational, knowledge has practically ceased to exist in America. In other words, our culture has excommunicated tradition, completely, to the point of only trusting scholarly works…A travesty, since, in America, scholarly works have been capitalized on by non-scholarly institutions and corporations (all others are deemed as questionable organizations)…also a travesty because scholarly conversation belongs in the pubs and the parks, the dinner table and the porch.

 

Possible Part Two, Coming Soon  

Prophecies About Russia

Prophecies About Russia

1. Anonymous Greek Prophecies found in St. Sabbas Monastery (8th or 9th century):The last days have not yet arrived, and it is completely wrong to consider that we are on the threshold of the coming of the antichrist, because one last flourishing of Orthodoxy is still to come, this time in the whole world, headed by Russia. This will take place after a terrible war in which either one half or two thirds of humanity will perish, and which will be stopped by a voice from heaven.

“And the Gospel will be preached throughout the world”.

1) For until that time there will have been preached, not the Gospel of Christ, but the Gospel distorted by heretics.
2) There will be a period of universal prosperity – but not for long.
3) In Russia during this period there will an Orthodox tsar, whom the Lord will reveal to the Russian people.
And after this the world will again be corrupted and will no longer be capable of correction. Then the Lord will allow the enthronement of the Antichrist.1]

2. Another Anonymous Prophecy from St. Sabbas’ Monastery (8th or 9th century):

“At various times this great people [the Russians] will fall into sin and for this will be chastised through considerable trials. In about a thousand years [i.e. in the 1900s] this people, chosen by God, will falter in its Faith and its standing for the Truth of Christ. It will become proud of its earthly might and glory, will cease to seek the Kingdom and will want paradise not in Heaven but on this sinful earth.

“However not all this people will tread this broad and pernicious path, though a substantial majority will, especially its governing class. On account of this great fall, a terrible fiery trial will be sent from on high to this people which will despise the ways of God. Rivers of blood shall flow across their land, brother shall slay brother, more than once famine shall visit the land and gather its dread harvest, nearly all the churches and other holy places shall be destroyed or suffer sacrilege, many shall perish.

“A part of this people, rejecting iniquity and untruth, will pass over the borders of their homeland and will be dispersed like unto the people of the Jews all over the world. Nevertheless the Lord will not show His wrath on them to the uttermost. The blood of thousands of martyrs will cry to the heavens for mercy. A spirit of sobriety will grow among this chosen people and they will return to God. At last this period of cleansing trial, appointed by the Righteous Judge, will come to an end, and once more Holy Orthodoxy will shine forth and those northern lands will be resplendent with the brightness of a faith reborn.

“This wonderful light of Christ will shine forth from there and enlighten all the peoples of the earth. This will be helped by that part of the people providentially sent ahead into the diaspora, who will create centres of Orthodoxy – churches of God all over the world. Christianity will then be revealed in all its heavenly beauty and fullness. Most of the peoples of the world will become Christian. And for a time a period of peace, prosperity and Christian living will come to the whole world…

“And then? Then, when the fullness of time has come, a great decline in faith will begin and everything foretold in the Holy Scriptures will occur. Antichrist will appear and the world will end.”[2]

[Read more…]

On Death To The World!

Climbing out of the Confusion

As time goes by throughout the Church age, more and more layers of half-truths and lies rise up to completely burry and surround us. We are left with bits and pieces of the Gospel, whereas to become a completely different Gospel than what was given to us by Christ. Oversimplifications have been innovated to save us from all the confusion, but those too become ghetto gospels, gospels that break off of THE Gospel and huddle in to camps of complete disarray.

In various sectarian Bible groups there is, for instance, a belief, that to be financial wealthy is a sign of godliness.  Other Bible groups speak of gaining “assurance” that Christ paid a debt to God for our sins, and that acknowledging this supposed act is, in itself, godliness. Others state that we must have a relationship with Christ and witness much providence in our lives, and this is godliness. Some Bible groups state that we must live a highly moral life “in Christ,” which is supposed to mean morals that are “Spirit led.”

There is no doubt that Christ and the fathers taught much about wealth and poverty, attitude and providence, as well as morals. But under what umbrella was this all taught? Through what lens must we see the Gospel message and what it entails, what it is all about?

Orthodox Christians have traditionally incorporated ‘pilgrimages’ into their lives. They take journeys to historically holy places such as Israel, or Mt Athos in Greece, to experience the Orthodox faith in a very real and personal way. A popular place for Orthodox to pilgrimage to is a monastery!  There are a number of reasons for this, but considering the topic at hand, the Gospel message  according to Orthodoxy, it seems pertain to speak of what every monastery advocates: the ascetic calling of the Gospel.

Asceticism is the very act (or acts) of dying to the world for the sake of Christ. There are many ascetic avenues of Orthodoxy, which are, of course, rooted in the words and actions of Christ…avenues such as fasting, prayer, meditation, poverty, etc. But there is something that all of these things rest on…something that Christ and the Apostles speaks of very adamantly within the Holy Scriptures. Martyrdom! We become martyrs as we follow the Gospel, dying to the world and its “worldliness.”

The Beatitudes as the Gospel Message

One of the many beautiful aspects of the Slavic tradition is that every Divine Liturgy, the Church prays the Beatitudes. In the Beatitudes, Christ explains that to be blessed is to be:

  • Poor
  • Hungry
  • Tearful
  • Hated and Excluded

 

Directly following the Beatitudes, the Gospel records Christ stating that we should:

 

  • Bless our enemies
  • Do good to our enemies
  • Pray for our enemies
  • Turn our cheek and give whatever is asked
  • Be merciful toward others

 

To be a Christian is to be a martyr! A martyr is not just one that is physically killed, but one who is also killed spiritually. Our ill-gotten spiritual state dies as we give ourselves to others, as we give up what we could have, for the sake of Christ and His eternal kingdom. As St Paul the Apostle says, we are to die to self and we are to deny the lust of the flesh. He also says that Baptism is symbolic of this death of self.

When St Paul says to us that when he is “weak” he is actually spiritually strong, he is proclaiming the ascetic way. When Christ says “take up your cross,” he is telling us to carry and accept what gives us pain in our lives. In order to embrace these things, we must be humble, which St Peter the Apostle says actually gives us grace. St James the brother of Christ says to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”

All throughout the Gospel message and through the writings of the Apostles and the fathers, we are commanded to die to the world! This does not mean die to creation, rather, it means to die to the worldliness of what is contrary to the ascetic nature of the Gospel.

Modernity Vs Asceticism

As the Church age has progressed through time, we have begun to see a pattern of culture take shape above and beyond the ascetic calling of the Gospel. We call this pattern by the name of ‘modernity.’  Modernity is the progressive nature of Satan within the eschaton. As St John says, Satan knows his time is short, and so he must layer as many complex and confusing cultures, beliefs, etc, into the world as possible, until one day, he has the vast majority of people under his control, believing that life is about feeling good and acquiring things to make us feel good. Life itself becomes reduced to what our senses demand. The ancients called this by the name of ‘Hedonism.’ They were much bolder about embracing sinful patterns, then. Now, hedonism is not a bold endeavor, rather it is something that is embraced by the means of self-righteousness (I earned this or that, etc).

The movie, Matrix, seems to display this message with clarity: The entire world is bound to their senses, everyone enjoying many things in life, unaware that their adversary has taken a hold of their very chemistry to program the people to only react positively to pleasure and the pursuit of pleasure. Interestingly enough, to break out and leave this life of  being controlled by the enemy, means living a very sacrificial life apart from much luxury, so as to become a part of redeeming all of creation to the final battle against this enemy. Sound familiar? Sounds like the Gospel, and how we are to turn from Satan’s domain and join the fight against him and his demons.

The Power to Fight

Orthodoxy, unlike western Christianity, does not teach that God killed Christ because man owed God a payment of some sort. Orthodoxy teaches that Christ’s death was a ransom, rather than a payment to God. It was a ransom from the devil, who had a hold of God’s people. Christ set us free from that bondage of sin and the devil, and, as St John the Apostle states, Christ was manifested in order to “destroy the works of the devil.”

When St Paul says “O Death, Where is your sting,” and “O Hades, where is your victory,” He is stating that there is a new way to travel in this life, and that is through the power of “the cross.” The weight and force of sin no longer has power over us, IF (and when) we chose to follow the Gospel. St Paul says that we “bear the image of the man of dust [Adam], we shall also bear the image of the heavenly man [Christ]. This means that we will be able to become as God was incarnate, we will be able to live as he lived, not perfectly, of course, but through his same Spirit, through his same motive and even, action.

Christ gave the pre-Nicene Church the power to be killed, daily, and that power was manifested into an entire empire, known as the Byzantine Empire. To understand historical victory we must understand that these victories are from the ascetic call of the Gospel, and not strategic placement of clergy, parishes, or political figures. The victory of Christendom is through the praxis of the Church, including the Holy Mysteries, which are also ascetic calls: The Eucharist and the very preparation for receiving it; Marriage, and the very servanthood that comes with it, as well as the other mysteries where we turn from what the world says we need to what Christ and His Church says we need. Do you need healing? Go to the Church to be prayed over! Yes, see a doctor, but also see a priest so that the doctor does not lead you astray, and perhaps, through the grace of God, you will not even need to see the doctor.

St Paul the Apostle says that “For He made Him who knew no sin to BE sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God IN Him.” This means that Christ took on the very negative effects of sin so as to enable us to be able to deal with them.” When we actually embrace the pains that God gives us, including those painful ascetic callings of the Church Calendar, such as fasting, we are able to obtain his power and conquer the devil. This is the Gospel message…That we turn from the hedonistic and self-centered calling of Satan to the rather painful, yet joyous, calling of Christ!

Examples

It is no coincidence that Christ spoke of money as a primary topic within the Gospel accounts. The love of money, says St Paul, is the root of many evils. Financial gain is a fine test for a Christian’s soul. When we gain, financially speaking, do we attempt to live a more luxurious life, with more hobbies, more meaningless vacations, and perhaps even more debt? We could go on with examples of hedonism, but the truth of what Christ teaches is that we cannot “serve two master,” we cannot serve both “God and mammon,” as he puts it. An even more radical statement is the one where He says that it is near impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. This is so clearly a call to a very ascetic gospel, a gospel that is simply not taught by very many in our consumer driven age.

The Church of Acts is our primary example of the ascetic call. In Act, Chapter Two, we see how the Christians gave everything they had to the Church so that the entire Church would have “all things in common.”. This eventually evolved into an entire empire, where the Gospel was promoted in such a way so as to pave the way for all mankind of our modern age to be able to receive this same power. It is a sort of paradox: The Church gave away their lives, only to find them more abundantly!

To follow Christ is to follow His teachings, and His teachings are clear: The Gospel is about giving up the way of “modernity” (the self-seeking way) for the way of the cross. Through this we find joy, through, what many in the world consider, rather depressing things. But we are actually to find joy through these ‘ascetic’ ways, through these pains, oddities, sacrifices, and even tribulation. We are here, on this earth, to be refined for a greater place, a place that our Father has been preparing for us.

On Orthodox Monarchy

Very soon after Russia accepted the seed of the Gospel (in the year 988) her soil was sanctified by the blood of martyrs. The pure young sons of Grand Duke Vladimir, Boris and Gleb, accepted death at the hands of a political assassin in order to save their people from civil war and terrible upheaval. They became sufferers for righteousness (I Peter 3:14); being conformed to the innocent suffering of Christ, they became true “Passion-Bearers.

As in the beginning of Holy Russia, so at the end: it pleased God to reveal Himself to the Russian people through the innocent suffering of Saints Boris and Gleb; now, in these latter times, He has again unveiled Himself through the purifying suffering of a Tsar, the Anointed of God and supreme Protector of Christ’s Church in Russia, Nicholas II.

Western writers do not understand Orthodox monarchy. And because America rebelled against the King of England; Americans in particular have no sympathy for the idea of Monarchy. Indeed, it is almost a sacred tradition to applaud any nation that “comes to its senses” and overthrows its king! The Tsars of Russia are viewed in this same man- centered rather than God-centered light.

But; in Orthodox Russia there once existed a society composed not of “church and state” (such as existed in medieval Europe) but of “government and priesthood”-a holy commonwealth. The Tsar was never placed outside the Church or “above the law,” but always within the Church and subject to the law of Christ. He was very much the “servant of the Gospel”: he was required to live by it and rule by it in order to be worthy of the blessings of God upon himself, his family, and his nation. Such a righteous Father to his people was the last Tsar, Nicholas II. And now, in this year of grace, 1981, in spite of more than 60 years of Marxist deception, it pleases God to reveal Nicholas and those that suffered with him, to the Church and to the whole world (if only the world will hear it!).

Blessed Archbishop John Maximovitch has written: “Why was Tsar Nicholas II persecuted, slandered and killed? Because he was Tsar, Tsar by the Grace of God. He was the bearer and incarnation of the Orthodox world view that the Tsar is the servant of God, the Anointed of God, and that to Him he must give an account for the people entrusted to him by destiny…”

In Orthodox teaching, Tsar Nicholas was the last representative of lawful Christian authority in the world, the last one to restrain the mystery of iniquity (2 Thess. 2:27). (And, indeed, from the time of his martyrdom can be dated the unprecedented lawlessness, godlessness, and apostasy of this final age: the complete unleashing of the forces of darkness, which now threaten to complete ly engulf the world as a preparation for the reign of Antichrist.)

An Orthodox monarch receives his authority from God, but by what means and in what manner does it come to him? Authority to govern in the Name of God and perform the highest earthly ministry descends upon a Tsar in the Sacrament of Anointing, at the time of his coronation. After the crowning he is told that “this visible and material adornment of thy head is to thee a manifest sign that the King of Glory, Christ, invisibly crowneth thee.” The Anointing takes place after the reading of the Gospel in Divine Liturgy. The chief hierarch anoints the Tsar with Holy Chrism on the brow, eyes, nostrils, lips, ears, breast, and hands, saying each time: “The Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Thus, Nicholas II received his authority through a Sacrament. The Holy Spirit was upon him! “By rejecting the Tsar, the people blasphemed the Sacrament and trampled upon the grace of God” {Illustratted History of the Russian Peop1e).

In 1917 Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow saw in a vision the Saviour speaking to Tsar Nicholas: “You see,” said the Lord, “two cups in my hands: one is bitter for your people, and the other is sweet for you.” In the vision the Tsar begged for the bitter cup. The Saviour then took a large glowing coal from the cup and put it in the Tsar’s hands. The Tsar’s whole body then began to grow light, until he was shining like a radiant spirit. Then the vision changed to a field of flowers, in the middle of which Nicholas was distributing manna to a multitude of people. A voice spoke: “The Tsar has taken the guilt of the Russian people upon himself and the Russian people is forgiven.” Nicholas him self once said: “Perhaps an expiatory sacrifice is needed for Russia’s salvation. I will be that sacrifice. May God’s will be done!

He had a very strong sense of his destiny as an Orthodox ruler. Although he had an opportunity to flee the country with his family and seek refuge outside Russia, he and his Empress deliberately chose to stay and accept whatever awaited them. He had been born on the feast of the Prophet Job and because of this he often remarked to his advisors: “I have a secret conviction that I am destined for a terrible trial, that I shall not receive my reward on this earth.” No wonder that our Russian Bishops Abroad wrote (in 1968): “Job the Much-Suffering, on the day of whose commemoration the Tsar was born, said in his grievous suffering, concerning the day of his conception: ‘As for that night, let darkness seize upon it; let it not be joined unto the days of the year” (Job 3:6).Terrible was the night of the murder of the Tsar”!

On that unspeakable night, “the prisoners were all in a deep sleep when they were awakened and ordered to dress in order to leave the city…. The Imperial Family descended to the basement where the Sovereign sat down, with his ill son, on a chair in the middle of the room. The Duchesses, the doctor, and three dedicated servants were seated around him. Every one was waiting for the signal to depart. At the executioner’s announcement (which stunned all the prisoners) of the impending execution, the Empress succeeded in crossing herself. She was killed instantly, together with the Sovereign. God spared them from hearing the groans of the Tsarevitch and the cries of the wounded Grand Duchess Anastasia. The first bullets did not bring death to the youngest ones and they were savagely killed with blows of bayonets and gun-butts and with shots at point-blank range. The imost innocent and ho1y had suffered the greatest torture”? (Illustrated Russian History).

In the words of Fr. Dimitry.Dudko, one of the first of that wave of modern confessors to speak out against the betrayal of the Church in Russia: “The Tsar is a saint and, moreover, one of the greatest saints. O great saint of Russia, Great-Martyr Nicholas, pray to God for us!”


“St. Seraphim prophesied in clear words about the tragic fate foreordained by God for the Tsar who would be present at the Sarov solemnity of faith, when there would be Pascha in the midst of summer (the glorification of St. Seraphim in 1903). According to his prophecy, if there would be repentance in the Russian people, God would yet have mercy on her, but first He would allow for a time the triumph of lawless men: the Tsar would be overthrown and killed, so that the people might know in experience what life was like under the Tsar anointed by God, and under the rule of men who have trampled underfoot the law of God. St Seraphim, by revelation from God, wrote in his own hand a letter to the Tsar who would come to Sarov and Diveyevo, entrusting it to his friend Motovilov, who gave it to Abbess Maria, who in turn handed it personally to Emperor Nicholas II in Diveyevo on July 20, 1903. What was written in the letter remains a secret, but one can suppose that the holy elder saw all that was to happen and warned against the frightful events to come…

(Abbot Seraphim, Peking, 1920, in Orthodox Russia, 1981, No.1)

Orthodox Roots in Russia Continue to Sprout – Proposal for National Orthodox Identity

Priests during the religious procession in honor of the Appearance of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, in St. Petersburg. (RIA Novosti/Alexei Danichev)

Priests during the religious procession in honor of the Appearance of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, in St. Petersburg. (RIA Novosti/Alexei Danichev)

Center left MP Yelena Mizulina, known for her pro-life stance and conflicts with leaders of the LGBT community, has suggested amending the constitution emphasizing the exclusive role of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Mizulina said at the Friday session of the parliamentary group for the protection of Christian values, that the Russian constitution should include a preamble saying that “Orthodox Christianity is the basis of national and cultural originality of Russia”.

The move gained support from other participants in the session who represented the majority caucus of United Russia and the Communist Party caucus.

Currently the Constitution describes Russia as a secular state and protects freedom of conscience. Four religions – Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism are sometimes called ‘traditional’ in the mass media and politicians’ statements, but there is no legal basis for that.

In 2012 nationalist lawmaker Sergey Baburin also suggested mentioning Christianity in Russia’s constitution. Baburin said the country could follow Georgia’s example and underline the Church’s role in the nation’s history while still protecting the equality and freedom of all beliefs. Back then, the move failed to gain sufficient support.

According to a poll conducted by the Levada research center in late October this year, over 70 percent of Russian Federation citizens consider themselves Orthodox Christians. 44 percent of respondents hold the Russian Orthodox faith as the official religion of the country. 56 percent agreed that the Russian Orthodox Church played a major role in Russian history.

Yelena Mizulina represents the moderate leftist party Fair Russia and chairs the Lower House’s Committee for Family Women and Children. Earlier this year the committee developed a concept of the national family policy that stressed the role of a traditional ‘nuclear family’ and suggested strengthening it by supporting traditional religions.

The concept caused heated discussions and some celebrities and gay rights activists started posting obscenities about Mizulina on their social network pages and various blogs. In July this year Russia’s Investigative Committee – a federal agency for investigating high-profile crimes – reported that they started a criminal inquiry “into insulting a representative of a state authority” but did not mention the names of any suspects.

In November speech, Mizulina lashed out at surrogacy saying that the practice, along with abortion, would eventually lead to humanity’s extinction. Earlier this year she also suggested making ‘morning after’ pills a prescription drug.

 

From rt.com

Orthodoxy Flourishing in Georgia

Rick Steves, a popular European travel guide, had a guest speaker write this about Georgia.

Georgia is a Christian outpost in a largely Islamic part of the world. Despite living farther east than Syria, Egypt, and parts of Iraq, Georgians have a strong Christian tradition. It was the third state to convert to the religion (after Armenia and Constantine’s Rome) in the third century A.D., and since then, has resisted many attempts at forced conversion by invaders.

The most recent threat to Georgia’s religious traditions came during the decades living under Soviet Union’s state-enforced atheism. However, since Georgia’s independence in 1992, Orthodox Christianity is experiencing a flourishing revival…one that I couldn’t help but get swept up in.

2011-12-09-AbusyGeorgiancathedral.jpgDutifully following my guidebook’s walking tour, I slipped into a small cathedral famed to be the oldest in Tbilisi. Now, I enjoy a good European cathedral as much as the next traveler. But after many years of travel, church fatigue has set in. Another church is worth a peek, but not much more. Plus, I find myself feeling sorry for the few worshippers: Would you want to be photographed by hordes of tourists while conversing with your Lord and Savior? So my intention was to step inside, poke around, read about its history, and continue on my walking tour. But instead I ended up staying for hours.
What first struck me was how busy the church was. Despite it being a Wednesday afternoon, it was packed. Mothers chased unruly toddlers. Husbands wandered arm-in-arm with their wives. Neighbors waved at each other from across the nave. Believers of all ages meandered from icon to icon — pausing to delicately touch the glass, whisper a prayer, light a candle, kiss the corner of the frame, and rest their foreheads lovingly where they had kissed…all with the tenderness they would show a beloved grandmother.

A half-dozen priests busily performed ceremonies for small clusters of followers. On the right — a baptism for three babies — Priests-in-practice shuttled in holy water with large, green-plastic buckets. In the center, a casual wedding — wearing street clothes, a young couple took their vows. During our trip, we even saw an open-casket funeral — dead body and all.

2011-12-09-Acasualandopentothepublicwedding.jpg

Nothing was private. Nothing closed to the public. It was community in its truest form.

The pure, sweet love these believers had for their God was palpable. As I watched quietly from the corner, I was moved to tears by their tender devotion and strong faith.

In every single church we visited, we found a similar scene. If you ever found Georgia’s streets empty, you could safely assume everyone was at church. In fact, there’s such a demand for church space that in 2005, Tbilisi opened one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in Christendom. It’s grand and beautiful, but its interior walls are still bare. They’ve started a collection to pay for a brand-new set of frescoes.

2011-12-09-Newcathedralwaitingforitsfrescos.jpg

Many people try to explain away this spiritual revival: Pent-up religious fervor being released after years of Soviet rule. A show of Christian religious strength in an Islamic world. An exhibition of national pride. They may be right. But above all else, what I saw was a deep and real love of God.

Romanians March to Revive Monarchy!

More than 1,000 people took to the streets of Bucharest on Sunday (November 10), asking for the reinstatement of the monarchy in Romania.

People chanted asking for King Michael I of Romania to take his seat at the Cotroceni Palace – which is now the presidency headquarters. The groups also chanted slogans such as ‘Monarchy saves Romania’.

The organizers of the march, the National Alliance for Reinstating Monarchy, gathered young and old people from Bucharest as well as from Alba Iulia, Cluj, Constanta, Galati and Ploiesti, who all met in the Charles de Gaulle plaza in the Romanian capital.

 

The march continued on Kiselef boulevard to Victoriei Square, then to the King’s Square, where protesters brought flowers to the King Michael’s statue. They then continued on Calea Victoriei to the revolutiei Square, and stopped at the equestrian statue of King Carol I.

Romania is currently a parliamentary republic, with a two-Chamber Parliament. The president is elected by the people, who also vote on the members of the Parliament. The Prime Minister is then named by the President, and the PM chooses the Government ministers.

Romania was a monarchy until 1947, when king Michael I was forced to abdicate. From 1866 to 1947, Romania had had four foreign kings, Carol I, Ferdinand, Carol II and Michael I. A foreign king was brought in 1866 at the initiative of Romanian politicians, after Romanian Alexandru Ioan Cuza was forced to abdicate. Carol of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was the politicians’ second choice, but he accepted, starting the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen dynasty in Romania.

King Michael I of Romania, currently 92, chose to break the bond with the House of Hohenzollern and give up on the title Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, which gives the Royal House of Romania a national and independent status.

This decision was made taking into account Kind Ferdinand I’s decision in 1921. King Ferdinand I was King Michael’s grandfather. Based on Ferdinand’s decision, all members of the Romanian royal family have the surname “Of Romania”.

Following the recent decision, the Royal House will no longer be called The House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, but the Royal House of Romania. The members of the Royal Family will also give up all their titles given by the heads of the Hohenzollern royal family.

The House of Hohenzollern is one of the most important dynasties in Europe. The Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen is a wing of the Hohenzollern dynasty. Kings Carol I (1881-1914), Ferdinand I of Romania (1912-1921), Mihai I (Michael) of Romania (1927-1930 and 1940-1947) and Carol II of Romania (1930-1940) are part of this dynasty.

 

source: romania-insider.com

Georgia Considers Returning to Monarchy

St. David IV the King of Georgia (Feast Day - January 26)

From RT News

The Georgian Parliament is to discuss the possibility of restoring the monarchy in the country. The idea was floated by the Head of the Georgian Orthodox Church and has been warmly greeted by opposition parties.

With no end in sight to Georgia’s political turmoil, the country’s top religious religious leader has proposed a radical solution – bringing back the country’s royal family.

Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II, says putting the Bagrationi family back on the throne could end the nation’s political woes.

“This is not a matter to be decided by others. It is we who should decide this. The Georgian people and the people living in Georgia have to decide this. You know that the rule of the Bagrationi Dynasty was terminated in 1801, and since then Georgian people have nurtured a dream to restore the ancient, divinely blessed dynasty,” he said.

The Bagrationi Dynasty is the longest serving royal house in Europe. They ruled Georgia in one form or another for over a thousand years, until Georgia was absorbed into the Russian Empire and the monarchy was abolished.

Today, the main branches of the family live in Spain and Italy, but they remain popular in Georgia. And after the Patriarch’s statement, they could be coming home at last.

The idea has been greeted with jubiliation by the Georgian opposition – newly united following the arrest last month of former Defence Minister Irakli Okruashvili on corruption charges.

That was just two days after making a series of scandalous allegations against President Mikhail Saakashvili.

Earlier this week, the former minister was released on $US 6 million bail after repudiating his allegations against the President.

The opposition say they will nonetheless continue their protests against the Government, and one of their main demands is a reduction in the powers of the President. For the opposition, the Patriarch’s statement seems like a blessing.

“I’m for a parliamentary republic. I’m also for the possibility of restoring the constitutional monarchy here. A constitutional monarchy is also a kind of a parliamentary republic and this was the principle idea of our Patriarch,” says Freedom Party leader Koka Gamsakhurdia.

The Patriarch’s is thinking long-term. His idea is to groom someone from the Bagrationi clan from childhood.

This means the opposition are unlikely to get their king or queen any time soon. For its part, the Government isn’t ruling out the idea for the future.

Mikhail Machavariani Deputy Speaker of the Georgian parliament thinks, “At this stage it is not possible for Georgia to become a constitutional monarchy”.  “If we, Georgians, make this decision, a monarch must be raised from childhood,” he added.

Ordinary Georgians also seem prepared to at least consider restoring the monarchy after more than 200 years.

“The idea of having a constitutional monarchy is of course lovely, but I’m afraid it’s absolutely unrealistic,”one of the citizens says.

Another local believes, “The restoration of the monarchy will happen in the future, it will be the best path to follow for the next generation.”

The Patriarch’s idea is an appeal to Georgians’ sense of history and unity at a time when the county is gripped by a political crisis.

And because Georgians respect the Patriarch, the idea is likely to be taken seriously.

The idea of bringing back Georgia’s royal family will get its first test in parliament shortly, when MPs discuss the proposal.

A Truly Orthodox Perspective of Marriage

Kim and IHaving been married only a year and a half, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that marriage isn’t for me.

Now before you start making assumptions, keep reading.

I met my wife in high school when we were 15 years old. We were friends for ten years until…until we decided no longer wanted to be just friends. :) I strongly recommend that best friends fall in love. Good times will be had by all.

Nevertheless, falling in love with my best friend did not prevent me from having certain fears and anxieties about getting married. The nearer Kim and I approached the decision to marry, the more I was filled with a paralyzing fear. Was I ready? Was I making the right choice? Was Kim the right person to marry? Would she make me happy?

Then, one fateful night, I shared these thoughts and concerns with my dad.

Perhaps each of us have moments in our lives when it feels like time slows down or the air becomes still and everything around us seems to draw in, marking that moment as one we will never forget.

My dad giving his response to my concerns was such a moment for me. With a knowing smile he said, “Seth, you’re being totally selfish. So I’m going to make this really simple: marriage isn’t for you. You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raisethem? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.”

It was in that very moment that I knew that Kim was the right person to marry. I realized that I wanted to make her happy; to see her smile every day, to make her laugh every day. I wanted to be a part of her family, and my family wanted her to be a part of ours. And thinking back on all the times I had seen her play with my nieces, I knew that she was the one with whom I wanted to build our own family.

My father’s advice was both shocking and revelatory. It went against the grain of today’s “Walmart philosophy”, which is if it doesn’t make you happy, you can take it back and get a new one.

No, a true marriage (and true love) is never about you. It’s about the person you love—their wants, their needs, their hopes, and their dreams. Selfishness demands, “What’s in it for me?”, while Love asks, “What can I give?”

Some time ago, my wife showed me what it means to love selflessly. For many months, my heart had been hardening with a mixture of fear and resentment. Then, after the pressure had built up to where neither of us could stand it, emotions erupted. I was callous. I was selfish.

But instead of matching my selfishness, Kim did something beyond wonderful—she showed an outpouring of love. Laying aside all of the pain and aguish I had caused her, she lovingly took me in her arms and soothed my soul.

SKwedding394Marriage is about family.

I realized that I had forgotten my dad’s advice. While Kim’s side of the marriage had been to love me, my side of the marriage had become all about me. This awful realization brought me to tears, and I promised my wife that I would try to be better.

To all who are reading this article—married, almost married, single, or even the sworn bachelor or bachelorette—I want you to know that marriage isn’t for you. No true relationship of love is for you. Love is about the person you love.

And, paradoxically, the more you truly love that person, the more love you receive. And not just from your significant other, but from their friends and their family and thousands of others you never would have met had your love remained self-centered.

Truly, love and marriage isn’t for you. It’s for others.

This post originally appeared on ForwardWalking.com, a website dedicated to helping people move forward in life.

Prophetic Dream for a Healing Temple

Pensioner Tomislav Miladinovic from Mišljenovac near Kučevo, built a church dedicated to St. Petka in the woods Lešje, Serbian daily Telegraf reported.

Twenty residents helped with contributions, but most of the money provided Tomislav. He also paved the way to the church through the woods, a distance of about 200 meters.

Tomislav Miladinovic, who spent three decades working in Hanover in Germany as a crane operator, said that he decided to build an Orthodox Church in the woods after a strange dream his daughter Ljilja had. She told him that Saint Petka appeared in her dream and showed her where the spring is. After digging on the site, under the willows, spring water appeared and on that same spot they decided to build a church.

“Older people say that at this same place there was a monastery once, and I personally saw wood paneling and walls when we were digging the foundation,” said Tomislav.

Near the church in the woods Lesje there are three springs with water that natives believe to help in the treatment of eye diseases, arthritis and high blood pressure.

On Monks, Clergy and Laity – By Elder Paisios

Before I refer to my limited experience with beginner monks, it would be good to offer some counsel for their edification while they are, for one reason or the other, still found in the world. Perhaps this meagre assistance will strengthen them for their monastic journey.

It is most important for a beginner, while still in the world, to find a spiritual Father who will be a friend of Monasticism, because most of the spiritual Fathers in our times are monachomachoi (“monk-fighters”); and war against Monasticism in many different ways. In waging their war they even make use of Fathers of the Church who were involved in important social work, such as Saint Basil the Great and his Vasileiada. [6]

I don’t wish to refer to the life of Saint Basil the Great before he began the Vasileiada, but simply express my thought: What would Saint Basil the Great do if he lived in our era? I am of the opinion that he would again retreat to a cave with his komboskini [7] watching the flame of love (of the social work of other holy fathers) being spread everywhere; not only to the faithful but even to the unfaithful, who all together constitute Social Providence, which also looks after members of the Spiritual Charity Associations (although only by granting a certificate of pauperism). In other words, social welfare is shouting every day: “Holy Fathers of our times, leave charity to us, the lay people, who are not in a position to do something else, and look to concern yourselves with something more spiritual”.

Unfortunately, however, some clergymen not only do not follow this exhortation, since they do not understand it, but they also prevent those who do understand it and want to dedicate themselves entirely to Christ, feeling intensely the inclination to depart from the world. That is to say, as if it weren’t enough that a beginner monk has to hear this from laymen; he has to hear plenty from the clergymen as well, who even make the unreasonable demand that monks leave the desert and come to the world to take up the social work and philanthropy. It is good to also mention some of the crowns which they weave for monks: “slackers, self-seekers, cowards”, etc., considering themselves heroes because they struggle in the sinful society and monks cowards because they depart to save only their own soul.

I wonder why they are unable to understand the great mission of the monk! The monk departs far from the world not because he hates it, but because he loves it. In this way he will, through his prayer, help the world more in those matters that are, being humanly impossible, only possible by God’s intervention. This is how God saves the world. The monk never says: “I will save the world”. Instead, he prays for the salvation of the whole world, along with his own. When the Good God hears his prayer and helps the world, he does not say: “I saved the world”, but “God saved the world”.

In a few words, monks are the “radio operators” of Mother Church, and therefore, if they depart far from the world, they do it out of love, departing from the distractions of this world in order to be in better contact with God and help people more effectively.

Of course, when their unit is in danger, some mindless soldiers also share the irrational demand of certain clergymen (i.e. that monks should return to the world). They say that the radio operator should leave the radio aside and grab his rifle, as if by adding one more gun to the two hundred others he will salvage the situation. While the radio operator clamours to make contact, yelling “calling headquarters, come in, come in” etc., the others think that he calls pointlessly into the wind. However, astute radio operators pay no attention, even if they are reviled. They struggle until they make contact and then ask for immediate help from Headquarters and the air forces arrive, as well as the armed forces, the navy etc. Thus, in this way, and not with their meagre rifles, the unit is saved. The same applies to monks who advance with divine power, with their prayer, and not with their negligible individual powers. It is especially the case in our age, when evil is so widespread, that we are in need of God’s intervention.

It is another matter if a monk, on account of some need, is found in the world for a short or even long period of time; then he assists also with his personal spiritual strength, which God has granted him. This activity, however, he considers as a secondary work, prayer always being his main work. He does this, of course, when in his cell as well, where he employs his handiwork as a secondary task, and if he sees anyone suffering next to him, he helps with whatever he has. Furthermore, when a person with problems visits him, he lays everything aside and tries to assist him humanly as well, in whatever he can.

All of this is to say that, the aim of the monk is not to be engaged in much handiwork and collect money to help the poor, as this translates into spiritual decline. Rather, through his prayer the monk could help, not by pounds, but by tons the needs of others (when, for instance, there exists a drought, by his prayer he could replenish the world’s storehouses). Therefore, God “raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill” [8]. Let us not forget what the Prophet Elijah [9] did.

Monks, therefore, don’t leave the desert in order ‘to go to the world to help a poor person, nor to visit someone ill in the hospital to give him an orange or some consolation (that which is usually done by lay people, and is the sort of thing that God will ask from them). Monks pray for all the sick to receive a twofold health (physical and spiritual), and the Good God has mercy on His creatures and helps them recover, so that they, in their turn, working as good Christians, will also help others.

Furthermore, neither do monks visit those in prison, for they themselves are voluntarily imprisoned due to their great philotimo [10] towards Christ, their Benefactor and Saviour; Christ gives His love in abundance to His children who have philotimo, the monks. Thus, while they are within the castle (the monastery), the presence and love of Christ transforms it into Paradise. This heavenly joy that the monks feel, they pray and ask that Christ give it to all our incarcerated brothers in the world’s prisons. In this way, the Good God is moved by the love of His good children and spreads consolation to the souls of prisoners, many times even setting them free.

Besides these prisoners, monks help other more serious cases of those who are not imprisoned for just ten or twenty years, but eternally, and are in need of much greater help. These are our brothers awaiting trial, who have fallen asleep, whom the monks visit in their own way, offering many spiritual refreshments. The Good God helps the reposed, and, at the same time, acquaints the monks, after their pained prayers for their departed brothers, with an inexpressible rejoicing, as if saying: “Don’t worry, my children, I have helped the departed as well”.

Someone might ask: “Should we beseech God for His help?”. Certainly we should beseech Him. Particularly, God is greatly moved when we sympathize with our brother and ask Him to help, because then He intervenes without transgressing our free will. Here, one observes the great spiritual nobility of God in that He does not even give the devil the right to protest. That is why He wants us to beseech Him so He can intervene—and He wants to intervene immediately to help His creatures. Of course, if God wants to, even now He can wind the devil into a ball and throw him into hell. However, for our own good He does not do it, because the devil, by beating us with his ill will, removes the dust from our soul.

In all that I have said and will mention further down, I want to stress the great mission of the monk, which is of greater importance than human philanthropy. For, even before someone becomes a monk, he has done his charitable work by giving everything away, as well as his own self to Christ (his rich Father), as Christ said to the young man [11]. So now, being His child (as a poor monk), he has a share in God’s fortune and asks anything he wants from his Merciful Father. Then, his Father gives His mercy in abundance when it does not spiritually injure His unfortunate children.

A beginner monk hears a great deal from certain clergymen, as well as from many laymen, in their effort to dissuade him from the grandeur of Monasticism. Apart from that which is shameful to say (things, of course, that are not said by serious people), they also say that the monk is a dead entity, who doesn’t have children, etc.

I don’t want to examine those who say these things and ask them if they themselves have children, for this is the purpose of marriage and, thus, their life has meaning. The monk’s aim, however, is different: virginity, “another life” [12]. But I would also like to ask those who have children: “Have they helped their children to secure Paradise, or do they only assist them materially?”. Monks, who are concerned with the salvation of men’s souls, become more affectionate fathers than fathers according to the flesh, have more children than that of the largest family, considering as their own children and brethren all of God’s creatures, and with pain they pray that we might all reach our destination, close to God.

Since it is not easy for certain people to understand the spiritual regeneration that monks bring about in the people, I will mention how they also contribute to physical childbearing. Remaining chaste themselves and pure even from thoughts, they undo the sterility of many mothers on account of their boldness before God, both while still found in this life and also after they have fallen asleep. Therefore, when they are saints, monks “give birth” even after they have fallen asleep. Naturally, monks do not help in the pulpit with the preaching of the Gospel in order to enlighten the young and old, for their life is the Gospel. Thus, the Gospel is preached by example, which is the most positive way, something today’s world especially thirsts after. As everyone is, more or less, educated in our day, they can speak of great truths about which they have read, which, however, have no relation whatsoever with the lives of most preachers. Hence, these preachers are constantly carrying about on their back the “woe” [13] Christ directed toward the Pharisees.

In short, monks are not merely lanterns that illumine city streets that people not stumble, but they are remote lighthouses on the rocks directing the ships of this world with their flashes, and upon the open seas the ships are orientated in order to reach their destination.

For this reason, not even parents should prevent their children from becoming monks (the radio operators of the Church), when, according to their inclination, God calls them. This mission is very significant and superior to what they themselves offer to God through their own mission. Lay people go regularly to church and make a promise to light a small or large candle. A monk, however, keeps vigil in church every day and has dedicated his entire self to Christ and, burning out of love for Him, he praises Him and thanks Him for himself and for the whole world.

Yet, I cannot understand why some clergymen and lay people fight Monasticism. Just as the army considers the signal corps an artery of the whole army, so too does our Church regard Monasticism. I would like to know: these blessed people who fight Monasticism, to which Church do they belong?

Endnotes

6. Vasileiada was the name given by Saint Basil (Vasileios) the Great’s successors to his social and philanthropic work.

7. Komboskini (pl. komboskinia): The black woollen rope with 33, 50, 100 or 300 knots used by the Orthodox to count the number of times the Jesus Prayer is repeated.

8. 1 Sam. 2:8.

9. Cf. 1 Kg. 18:41-46.

10. Philotimo, according to Elder Paisios, is the reverent distillation of goodness, the love shown by humble people, from which every trace of self has been filtered out. Their hearts are full of gratitude towards God and to their fellow men, and out of spiritual sensitivity, they try to repay the slightest good which others do them.

11. Cf. Mt. 19:21,Mk. lO:21,Lk. 18:22.

12. From the Paschal Canon.

13. Cf. Mt. 23:13, Lk. 11:42-44.

From Epistles, by Elder Paisios of Mount Athos (Souroti, Thessaloniki, Greece: Holy Monastery “Evangelist John the Theologian”, 2002), pp. 31-38.

Orthodox Church Says Surrogacy is ‘Mutiny Against God’, Seeks Legal Ban

A representative of the Moscow Patriarchy has blasted surrogacy as “mutiny against God” and “happy fascism,” restarting the controversy after tabloids reports of a celebrity couple who used a surrogate mother to have children.

The comment from the head of the Patriarchy Commission for Family Motherhood and Childhood, Dmitry Smirnov, arrived after Russian mass media reported that in September 64-year-old Russian pop star Alla Pugachova and her 37-year-old husband Maksim Galkin had two children born through surrogate motherhood.

I would ban this, of course. We can see that a bad example is contagious,” the senior church representative was quoted as saying by Interfax. “This is mutiny against God, this is very happy fascism with a contract, the money and confiscation of a child.”

The cleric also reminded that the Russian Orthodox Church supported a complete ban on surrogate motherhood in Russia and called on the State Duma to initiate such a move.

The official concept of the Russian Orthodox Church’s social policy calls surrogate motherhood – the agreement in which a woman carries and delivers a child for another person or couple – “unnatural and immoral,” adding that it should not be allowed even in cases where there is no monetary motivation.

A well-known church-backed politician Vitaly Milonov of the St. Petersburg City legislature also condemned Pugacheva and Galkin for using surrogacy.

I would not congratulate this family with the fact that they had bought themselves a child, that they have enough money. With the fact that they could use some woman as an incubator to carry their child,” Milonov told reporters.

This is an immoral thing to do in the country that has tens of thousands of orphans waiting to be adopted. Making oneself a neat and clean baby is something akin to buying a new model Ferrari,” said the MP who previously made himself a name as the main sponsor of the law banning the promotion of non-traditional sex relations to minors, known in the mass media as the ‘gay propaganda ban’.

Surrogacy is legal in Russia and according to state news agency RIA Novosti about 500 children are born in the country through this procedure every year. Surrogate mothers must be between 20 and 35 years of age, have at least one child of their own and pass a medical test.  The law guarantees the secrecy to both parties. Prices for the services vary greatly, but it is generally considered that in Russia they are up to one tenth than in Europe and America.

Some other nations, such as Ukraine, South Africa and several states in the USA also allow commercial surrogacy. The UK, Australia, Canada, Israel and several other nations only allow non-commercial surrogacy. Countries like Ireland and Greece have no laws on the subject, leaving it in a gray area.

Surrogate motherhood is legally banned in Austria, Germany, France, Norway and Sweden and in several US states, such as Arizona and Michigan.

From RT News