"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."
C. S. Lewis

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Do Not Despise Our Lord Jesus Christ

o you wish to honor the Body of the Savior? Do not despise it when it is naked. Do not honor it in church with silk vestments while outside it is naked and numb with cold. He who said, “This is my body,” and made it so by his word, is the same that said, “You saw me hungry and you gave me no food. As you did it not to the least of these, you did it not to me.” Honor him then by sharing your property with the poor. For what God needs is not golden chalices but golden souls.
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Saint John Chrysostom, On the Gospel of St. Matthew, 50, iii (PG 58, 508)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

ove all your fellow men, even your enemies. This is the most basic thing. Always love not only those who love us, but also those that hate us. Let us forgive them and love them all even if they have done us the greatest evil; then we are truly children of God. Then our own sins are also forgiven... Always preach love. This is the most basic law of God: love and love alone.
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Elder George, Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit: The Lives & Counsels of Contemporary Elders of Greece (Protection of the Veil Press: Thessalonica, 2003) p. 189.

Friday, July 13, 2012

On Clerical Involvement in Politics

Posted:  12 Jul 2012 09:28 AM PDT by Mystagogy: The Weblog of John Sanidopoulos

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"It's a sin when some Clergy divide people according to their parties criteria and identify with one party faction. This is the reason why the canon laws of the Church forbid to Clergy involvement in politics", said Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agios Vlasios to BriefingNews.

When asked about clergy who involve themselves with political issues, and generally politics, and whether there are limits to this, the Hierarch stressed that the Church is the Body of Christ, the spiritual mother of all Christians, and should remain open to all people, regardless of color, race, class, or political order.

He further said:

"This is the greatness of the Church, that it is not enclosed in small intimate groups that are distinguished by particular political parties and ideologies. And like every mother, She shows Her love for all children, who may belong to different parties, and so much more should this be done by the Church.

It is within this framework that the Clergy should move, as Spiritual Fathers and spiritual mothers of people who are looking for affection, love, freedom, meaning of life.

So it's a sin when some Clergy divide people according to their parties criteria and identify with one party faction. This is the reason why the canon laws of the Church forbid to Clergy involvement in politics.

Of course, we must make a distinction. Politics is one thing when it is an adjective and involves the life of the city, and it is another thing when politics is a noun and is involved in party practices.

With the first a Clergyman is doing politics, after damage has been done to a society and he participates in events, dealing with social and charitable works. Not so with the second meaning, when he becomes a party member and openly supports one political party formation.

When there are elections the Cleric is free to vote for the party he thinks will better address the social and economic problems, but cannot propagate to the Parishioners the party he has chosen.

Some parties try to get backed up by the Clergy and people of the Church, but Clerics should not succumb to this temptation.

On this occasion I want to emphasize my view that the Church should be disentangled from the tight embrace of the state in order to gain Its freedom, to manage Its house, according to canon law.

I cannot understand why we need a Charter which is the law of the State, to determine the many details about the inner life of the Church. One law would suffice to define the personality of the Church to be authorized according to the sacred canons.

Also, I cannot understand why there is a law of the State on Ecclesiastical Courts, which regulates many details, even as to what a Clegyman-judge should wear.

It would suffice for one law and a few articles that would set out some basic principles and leave the Church to judge their Clergy in accordance with the sacred canons, without interfering in secular law.

Unfortunately, the current situation in some areas is the prevalence of a conducive political-state spirit. We must put forward an order in these matters, so that the inner life of the Church will not to be considered and understood as a prisoner of state-civil law.

However, if we Clergy see things through the ecclesiastical perspective, we will not be possessed by insecurities and will not divide the parties into hostile or friendly, and will not engage in electoral dilemmas.

One is the work of the Church and another is the work of the State and party.
When a State seeks and is able to address poverty and unemployment, then it must be welcomed, because it cares for the interests of the people."
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Thanks to  Mystagogy : The Weblog of John Sanidopoulos

Translated by John Sanidopoulos

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Immersed in Virtues

"A dispassionate soul is immersed in virtues as a passionate soul is in pleasures" ( St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent"). 

Man's life is the stage on which the free will of man is expressed before God and the divine will.  Putting to death the soul's passionate part makes man incapable of achieving the good. Christian conduct consists, not in this [putting to death the soul's passionate part], but in dedicating the capacities of man's soul to God. The evil use of unnatural desires turns man away from his only natural desire for God, the One ultimately yearned for. Consequently, dispassion cannot be understood as the denial of the passions, but their redirection toward the longing for God. The dispassionate man is not he who has mortified his soul's passionate aspect and has become unmoved and inactive in his godly habits, in his relationship with God and his disposition towards Him. Rather, the dispassionate man is he who has subordinated the soul's passionate aspects (the incensive and desiring faculties) to the nous (νοῦς) and has firmly oriented them towards God."

Anestis Keselopoulos, Passions and Virtues According To Saint Gregory Palamas (Saint Tikhon’s Seminary Press, South Canaan, PA, 2004) p. 170.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Zealous For The Salvation of One's Brother

“I have seen [a man] who was so zealous and filled with desire for the salvation of his brethren that he often implored God, who loves man, with all his soul and with warm tears that either they might be saved or else that he be condemned with them. His attitude was like that of Moses (cf. Ex. 32:32; Num. 14:10ff.) and indeed of God Himself in that he did not in any way wish to be saved alone. Because he was spiritually bound to them by holy love in the Holy Spirit he did not want to enter into the kingdom of heaven itself if it meant that he would be separated from them. O sacred bond! O unutterable power! O soul of heavenly thoughts, or, rather, soul borne by God and greatly perfected in love of God and of neighbor!

“He, then, who has not yet attained to this love, neither seen a trace of it in his own soul nor in any way felt its presence, is still earthbound and among the things of the earth. Nay, rather, his nature is to hide himself beneath the earth like the so-called blind rat, since he is blind like it and capable of hearing only those who speak on the earth. What a terrible misfortune that we who have been born of God and become immortal and partakers of a heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1), who are "heirs of God and fellow-heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17) and have become citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20), have not yet come to the realization of so great blessings! We are, so to speak, without feeling, like iron that is thrown into fire, or like a lifeless hide that cannot feel it when it is dipped in scarlet dye. This is still our attitude though we find ourselves in the midst of such great blessings of God and admit that we have no feeling of it in ourselves! Though we boast as if we were already saved and numbered among the saints, and make pretense and adorn ourselves with affected holiness like those who spend their lives in misery as performers in the music hall or the theater, we are like clowns and harlots who have no natural beauty and foolishly think to beautify themselves with cosmetics and unnatural colors. How different are the features of the saints who have "been born from above" (Jn. 3:3)!” 

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(St. Symeon the New Theologian, The Discourses (The Classics of Western Spirituality), VIII On Perfect Love, and What it is in Action (Paulist Press, New York: 1980) pp. 144-145)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Because of the Angels


aint Paul the Apostle, in his first letter to the Corinthians says,  “δια τουτο οφειλει η γυνη εξουσιαν εχειν επι της κεφαλης δια τους αγγελους” (1 Cor. 11:10). There are some, more timid souls among us, who have declared that this is “one of the most difficult passages in the New Testament.” The NKJV translates the verse in a modern rendering, reading: “For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.” Another modern Protestant translation renders the Greek as : “This is why a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head: because of the angels.” The KJV simply reads, “For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.” A very literal translation, reads, “Wherefore owes authority to woman-being on the head by the angels.”
No matter how you translate this passage, this is a very powerful statement. Almost all the discussion, mainly among Protestants and accepted by modern Orthodox clergy out of their own sense of deficiency, centers on whether the word εξousia should be translated as “power” rather than “authority”, and the use of the English “Symbol” in the translation, and, of course, there is always the modernist translator who, out of ineptitude, simply relegates the entire thing to cultural practices of the era... that is always a neat and easy disposal of what is too difficult and uncomfortable to deal with. Interestingly, no one really seems to seriously question the fact that St. Paul is making his argument because it is “for the sake of the angels.”
I do not mean to over-simplify the problem of this passage. Canon 17 of the Council of Gangra (c. 340 AD) reads, "If a woman, from supposed asceticism, cuts off her hair which has been given her by God to remind her of her subjection, and thus renounces the command of subjection, let her be anathema." So, we might ask, was the council’s belief that a woman’s hair was “given her by God to remind her of her subjection,” based on an interpretation of this passage of St. Paul’s letter? Were the members of the council who made this interpretation native speakers of Greek? Had there been a substantial shift in the usage of these Greek words between the Paul's writing (c. 40 AD), and the council (c. 340 AD) that might have led to a misinterpretation? Might the council have intentionally misrepresented the meaning of the text? How similar is the use of language in the discussion in this canon to the discussion in 1 Corinthians?
Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225 AD) says of this passage, “It is on account of the angels, he (Paul) says, that the woman’s head is to be covered, because the angels revolted from God on account of the daughters of men.”  Ambrosiaster (366-384 AD) says of this passage, “The veil [the woman’s head covering] signifies power, and the angels are bishops.” Saint John Chrysostom (c. 347–407) says, “Being covered is a mark of subjection and authority. It induces the woman to be humble and preserve her virtue, for the virtue and honor of the governed is to dwell in obedience.”
In truth, it seems that no woman or man had any issue with this passage until the 1960’s in America. You will find no canonical icon of a female saint of the first two thousand years of Christianity who does not wear a veil over her hair, in as much as her life was immersed in salvific repentance and prayer to her Creator.
It is often said, in comments on cultural expression in our Orthodox faith, that the covering of the head belongs to an ancient culture, and not our own. And yet, history reveals that if culture has any bearing on the matter, it is relatively modern American culture that has disposed of this practice. Sometimes, we conveniently make a distinction between the small “t” traditions brought from Russia, or Bulgaria, Syria, Greece, etc. and the capital “T”, representing that which was delivered by the Apostles. Again, conveniently, this argument is used to reject a vast array of things we Americans simply wish not to accept. We are very slow – and rather arrogant – in recognizing our own American contribution to Orthodox cultural tradition.
Bulgarian, Russian, Syrian and all other Orthodox women wore their head covered in prayer until very recently. Christian women – Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant – universally wore a covering on their head until the 1960’s. Satan, being his clever self, first substituted hats for coverings, and when hats became passé in American style culture so did the head covering in prayer. In fact – Satan is so marvelously clever – the covering of one’s head was eventually identified with a loss of one’s individual and uniquely independent feminine identity. To cover one’s head meant that you subjugated yourself not to God the Creator, but to the dominion of man. Suddenly, it was no longer a question of the woman’s standing before the celestial powers, but it was a statement of whether she would “subjugate” herself to a human man.
The result? Today, women feel obliged to go to prayer without their head covered – despite the “power” that Saint Paul speaks of, and despite the order of hierarchy among angels and all beings, because they are first and foremost free of subjugation... even unto God.
Just a thought.