Thursday, August 22, 2019

Sermon Against the Anti-Jewish Pograms in the Russian Empire (Metr. Anthony Khrapovitsky of Kiev)


Introduction

Anti-Jewish pogroms in the Russian Empire were large-scale and targeted. Anti-Jewish rioting first began in 19th century Russia. Pogroms began occurring after the Russian Empire, which previously had very few Jews, acquired territories with large Jewish populations from the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth during 1791–1835. These territories were designated "the Pale of Settlement" by the Imperial Russian government, within which Jews were reluctantly permitted to live, and it was within them that the pogroms largely took place. Most Jews were forbidden from moving to other parts of the Empire, unless they converted to the Russian Orthodox Church.

The term "pogrom" became commonly used in English after a large-scale wave of anti-Jewish riots swept through south-western Imperial Russia (present-day Ukraine and Poland) from 1881 to 1884; during this time, more than 200 anti-Jewish events occurred in the Russian Empire, notably pogroms in Kiev, Warsaw and Odessa.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Overcoming Both Fear and Fearlessness


By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The terrorist attacks in Paris, in the heart of Europe, created very deep pain for all of us and we commonly condemn the criminal acts, while we have prayed for the victims of these actions. One cannot transfer a covert war amid civilian people, when they have made it a standard program to be carefree from every evil. Whatever arguments they use to support such outrage cannot eliminate the brutality of the event.

However, the aim of this article is not to stress the nonnegotiable good of freedom and respect for others, but to comment on aspects of the subject which can be specifically summarized in the words fear and fearlessness, and how to overcome them.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

A Brief Overview of Zoroastrianism


I think a lot of people would be confused by an explanation of Zoroastrianism, so below is a short video introduction to an ancient religion still alive in few numbers in Iran and India that could die out within a few generations.





Friday, July 19, 2019

Teachers of Orthodox Christianity and Teachers of Other Religions


The Path Towards the Light: 
Orthodoxy's Holy Teachers and Teachers of Other Religions

By Theodore Riginiotes

In a certain village of Messaras lives an elderly lady called G***, who, to those who know her, it is well known that God has bestowed her with exceptional charismatic gifts. Once, for example, the Archangel Michael appeared to a certain sick person in Athens who did not know her at all, and announced to him: "I came to heal you, because G*** sent me to you in her prayer."

The elderly G*** said to me: "I am no saint; just an old lady who beseeches God for her salvation. If you want a Saint, you should go to so-and-so the ascetic who lives over there, or the other one, *****, who lives in that area", giving me the names of four or five contemporary ascetics - mostly unknown - who live in various regions of Crete.

Characteristics like those of the elderly G*** - on their own - do not mean anything. They can quite easily be imitated by a con artist, although, people like the old lady are not frauds, as she never profited in any way from those charismatic gifts; in fact, all that preoccupied her was the fear that she might lose that mystical relationship with Christ in her heart. Instead, we can find such abilities in teachers of other religions: Buddhists, Hindus, and even witch doctors or shamans. Nevertheless, we need to mention that in our spiritual tradition there are quite a number of people who have reached the elderly lady's "level". For example, the inconceivable, miraculous charismatic gifts of contemporary Orthodox saints such as the Elders Porphyrios, Paisios, Iakovos and others, who not only had the gift of insight and healing, but also had experiences of the "warping" of space and time, the multiplication of matter, teletransportation, communication with animals, and many other signs. What is even stranger however, is that similar phenomena as well as appearances of such Elders continue even after their death - or, to use the Orthodox term - after having fallen asleep in the Lord. Even in Crete, there are such Elders, as, for example, the Elder Evmenios from the Roustikoi Monastery of Rethymnon, and others.

These wonderworking saints are descendants of a previous generation of wonderworkers, to which belonged people such as Saint George Karslidis († 1948), the sightless Saint Matrona of Moscow († 1952), Saint John Maximovitch († 1966), and many others in the world, who in turn were descendants of another generation, which included Saint John of Kronstandt († 1908), Saint Nectarios of Optina (Russia † 1937), Saint Matrona of Anemniasevo († 1932), Saint Arsenios the Cappadocian († 1924) and many others.

Proceeding in this manner backwards into history, we can see holy wonderworkers living in every Christian generation, right through to the Disciples of Christ, whose miracles have been described in the New Testament (in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles).

***

These holy and charismatic teachers of Christianity differ immensely from the respective Lamas, Swamis, Shamans, etc. However, I would like to mention three points, which perhaps reveal those elements that I desire to point out to you.

First of all, there is no "method" in the lives of these Christians which they follow in order to attain such characteristics, nor were they initiated in any kind of mystic teaching. The only thing they did was to open wide their heart to Christ, as God, and to their fellow man. Their way of life does not include the practicing of a certain method (for example: yoga, meditation or martial arts), but rather, we would say that theirs is a path which includes a descent into two intelligible realms - which the contemporary saint, the Elder Sophrony Sakharov, characterizes as "Hades": the "Hades of repentance" and the "Hades of Love". The first "Hades" is the complete rejection of my old self and its acts and desires (which are characterized by selfishness), and the second "Hades" which contains an unconditional love, to the point of self-sacrifice for each and every human being individually, even my enemy (whom I have forgiven completely). This love culminates in (or begins from) a love for Christ, with Whom a proper communication is maintained through prayer, as well as participation in the Divine Liturgy and the Sacrament of Holy Communion; a communication that can even reach a vision of the Divine Light, not only during prayer, but also during one's ordinary everyday life. This vision may sometimes last for entire days, and one can continue with his daily activities and simultaneously find himself inside the Divine Light - which reveals itself to him as a personal being, as Christ.

Given that there is no method by which one can strive to attain a certain result, such major spiritual experiences can be experienced not only by monks or priests, but also by common people, family men and women, or even children (who may not even be aware of what they had experienced). Christian spiritual experiences - miracles, or visions of Christ, the Panagia or certain saints - can be experienced by non-Christians, who may well remain faithful to their religions, but some find the courage to convert to Orthodoxy, by placing themselves at the starting point of that new course. What all of them have in common, however, is the "Hades of repentance" which gives birth to a humble heart, and the "Hades of love", whose prerequisite is a humble heart.

A second characteristic of Orthodox wonderworking saints is that they do not in the least desire to attain any exceptional spiritual gifts, or to have any special spiritual experiences. They do not desire any increase in knowledge, or the acquisition of "wisdom", or a "higher consciousness", or to become "one with the universe", to become "attuned" to it, or something similar. They desire only Christ. Their desire directs them outside their own self, towards another Person - which they love and to which they are inclined to be joined to, by following His path, the path of humble and selfless love towards God (the Holy Triune God, not some subjective notion "of a God", or a fantasy that "god" is a symbol of beauty or of love, or a spark that exists inside us or inside every being, etc.) and towards our fellow man. This is the reason that they do not immerse themselves inside their own self - like yogis do - but instead they look to Christ, as God, and ask for His mercy and His precious help in cleansing their heart of passions and in becoming transformed into the kind of being that He wants them to be.

Furthermore, they do not strive to carve "their own path towards perfection", but rather, dedicate themselves to the path that Christ taught and be incorporated in the Body that He founded: the Church. Christians never pursue any personal struggle for perfection; they dedicate themselves and their spiritual and moral struggle within the Church: they congregate with their brethren and they partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, from the same holy chalice. Christ is also a member of this community - its Head, to be precise - and it is within that community that I can meet with Him. Even a hermit is always a member of the community; he too becomes joined to it, through his prayer to Christ (a prayer for all people, and in fact for all beings), and he also partakes of Holy Communion, which renders it possible.

Given that Christ is the One that I love, because He is the One that I desire to be joined to, and because I know that this union is feasible (as known to all the saints of Orthodoxy, who already experience from this lifetime that this union is what renders them wonder-workers with the spiritual gifts that the Triune God bestows and retracts appropriately, without man's ability to selfishly "recall" them with his own methods), this is the reason I am not interested in the possible existence of "other paths" for the acquisition of wisdom, knowledge, or supernatural powers. Even if someone teaches me how to awaken or manipulate these powers, I do not desire them. I desire only Christ.

Deep down I do desire such powers, which is why I am not in the state to see Christ; and if I do see something, it will likely not be Him, but "someone else" who will want to entrap me. Saints, who have attained perfection, have actually rid their inner self of egotism and do not desire any powers, but only Christ.

A favorite example in Orthodoxy that reveals the manner of approaching Christ is the Parable of the Prodigal Son, who, after allowing himself to become totally crushed, afterwards fell at his father's feet and begged him to count him among the servants. That is just how a humble Christian feels, when realizing the abyss that separates him from the absolute purity of Christ, i.e., he is fully aware that he is not without sin; but we see that the prodigal son's Father (symbolic of Christ) restored the prodigal one to the status of son and honored him with a ring and resplendent garments, dismissing not only the son's request to become a servant, but also his previous life of debauchery where he had squandered the inheritance that he had demanded (and received) from his Father without having toiled for it.

We might mention here that most of us are very sinful; our intentions deep down are not in the least pure and, if possible, our ego would lead us down very dark paths, regardless if we harmed people or "benefited" them. And yet, we do not admit anything like this (often not even to ourselves), but instead we present our self as "worthy" of receiving spiritual gifts from Christ - albeit not even admitting that Christ is God, or that He does commune with man - and instead maintain that there is merely an impersonal "divine essence" or a "universal soul", thus turning our back to the True God, Who has appeared to countless saints.

Two examples of different paths to approaching God are the holy Elders Porphyrios and Sophrony. The former had visited the Holy Mountain from his early teenage years and never distanced himself from Christ, thus most probably not having to experience the anguish of repentance to a large degree. Oppositely, the latter had denied Christ, become an atheist, indulged in transcendental meditation, and had even entertained almost morbid thoughts that he himself was a god (thoughts that were influenced by oriental philosophy); thus, when he experienced the sighting of the Divine Light, God's absolutely humble love made him feel like an unworthy traitor, never having imagined that God could be so humble and condescending. The Elder Sophrony experienced the "Hades or repentance" with extreme anguish, which, however, "regenerates, and does not cause despair nor does it exterminate man".

Most of us are more akin to the Elder Sophrony - relatively speaking - rather than the Elder Porphyrios; by the way, this is why it is of incalculable value to raise our children the Christian way: so that they may find Christ in the easier manner, not the more painful one - nor reach the end of their life not having found Him at all.

The third characteristic of saints, which I would like to mention, is the knowledge (through experience) of all spiritual situations, which allows them to discern between the positive and the negative ones, even if externally they may present the same characteristics. This spiritual science is called the "discerning of spirits" and it allows the saints to distinguish between a real experience or spiritual gift that originates from God, and an "exact replica" that originates from the devil and is given to people as bait, with the intention of flattering their ego and drawing them even further away from their purpose - which is their "in Christ" union with God.

The discerning of spirits is especially apparent in saints who have also "tasted" exo-Christian experiences, after having been initiated in other spiritual traditions prior to discovering Orthodoxy. One such personage is the Elder Sophrony that we mentioned earlier, but, there are other similar cases which are recorded throughout the history of Orthodoxy - even with ascetics who had never ceased being faithful to Christ, but had been caught in a moment of egotistic weakness and had acquired "spiritual gifts" that led them into numerous torments.

The discerning of spirits is a Christian contribution that is necessary for a real evaluation of spiritual experiences, as well as of "powers", of "spiritual gifts", of "contacts with other beings", of "revelations", of "wisdom" and all the other elements that the various spiritual traditions safeguard and impart, as though they are priceless treasures. If I may be allowed to make an observation here, given that this spiritual gift is absent, even in the non-Orthodox versions of Christianity (which is why we observe "spiritual experiences" and "charismatic displays" in various heresies such as Papism and Protestantism - phenomena which according to Orthodox criteria are seen as suspicious, and even purely demonic), Orthodox Saints have experienced similar situations as those experienced by the teachers and the sages of various religions. Reversely, however, the teachers of other religions who may have "broadened their consciousness" or have "communicated with entities" etc., have not savored the experience of a union with Christ. This is the reason why an Orthodox Saint (who can immediately perceive the presence or the absence of divine Grace) is far better "equipped" to evaluate a spiritual phenomenon... and, quite frankly, this evaluation is not favorable as regards the quality of the "powers", the "spiritual gifts", the "revelations" etc., even within Christianity and within Orthodoxy, and even more so within the various religions where people worship spirits of an indeterminable identity (quite possibly malign or threatening ones, or deities that fuse "good and evil" together, as if they are supposedly the different aspects of the same thing, or supplementing each other) and they open up towards these entities, striving to become joined to them or be possessed by them, whereas God, the Angels and the souls of the reposed Saints - i.e. the benign spirits - never possess a person.

The religions of the Far East - such as Hinduism or Buddhism - regard as the perfect state and redemption the elimination of the human personality and its annihilation or its assimilation into the "universal psyche", because they regard the present world as a self-deception. Christianity on the other hand knows, from the personal experience of the saints, that an individual's personality is never lost; that it remains alive after the body's death and also that the body likewise anticipates its resurrection, as pre-announced by Christ in many parts of the New Testament.

So, where does this "elimination" that the oriental religions strive for lead to? Or, what exactly are the spirits and the entities that come into contact with people, either as "gods" or as "ancestors" or as beings "from other worlds" (for example elves and fairies), or even in the modern-day West (which is presently in a spiritual confusion), as "wise extraterrestrials" with divine qualities?

The above are just a small chapter in the huge topic of the differences between religions. Religions are not paths that "all lead to the same finishing point"; they do not say "the same things with other words", nor can they all lead Man to the Truth and to perfection. We Christians are fully aware of this, because experience has reassured us that the Truth is Christ, and that perfection is one's union with Him - which involves the in-Christ participation of imperfect man in the perfection and purity of God. Without Christ, there is no perfection and no Truth; only solitude (like in Buddhism), or paths that lead to the unknown. An "unknown" that is very well known - thanks to the experience and the wisdom of true peaceful warriors and teachers of mankind, who reached the highest point of spiritual progress that is possible for human persons: that of the saints.

All of the above, my brethren, you need not blindly accept as dogmas. Examine them in depth, and you will discover for yourself what the truth is. Be careful, however, in case you fool yourself that "truth" is whatever accommodates your ego (by telling you that you will find God "within you", or that you and God "are one", or that you will become virtuous, luminous, prescient and omnipotent by means of rigorous exercise), just because that which invites you to the thing most hated by fallen man will seem unpleasant to you, i.e., repentance and humility.



Monday, June 17, 2019

Yoga and the Case of Saint Hypatios of Rufinianes

St. Hypatios of Rufinianes

By John Sanidopoulos

In the 33rd chapter of the Life of Hypatios, which was written around 450 by his disciple Kallinikos, about the abbot of Rufinianes Monastery in Chalcedon in the early fifth century, we read about his attempt to rid Chalcedon of what he considered its final remnant of paganism - the Olympic Games.

The story is as follows: Leontios, the prefect of Constantinople from 434 to 435, decided to establish the Olympic Games at the theater of Chalcedon. When Hypatios heard the news, he wept because he thought that he was going to see the rebirth of idolatry, crying: "My Lord, will I ever see idolatry revive during my lifetime?" Then, he assembled twenty monks and went with them to see Bishop Eulalios. Hypatios announced to the bishop that he was ready to die in the theater before permitting such a return of idolatry. Eulalios did not agree, because they were not obliged to offer sacrifices, and asked Hypatios to keep calm. But the monk replied that if Eulalios did not do anything to hinder the celebration, he would go to the theater with his monks and, when the prefect held the presidency of the games, he would throw him from his podium, even if this assassination meant that Hypatios and his followers would be executed; they preferred to die as martyrs before permitting the rebirth of pagan religion.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

How A Hindu From Fiji Became an Orthodox Priest


By Fr. Barnabas Nair

Greetings to all my beloved Orthodox Christians. I am Fr. Barnabas from Labasa, the second largest island in Fiji. I am taking the opportunity to convey to you how I found the truth in the Orthodox Church.

When I first met His Eminence Mr. Amphilochios on my island Vanua Levu in the city of Savusavu it was a Saturday morning on the 18th of June in 2010. When he visited me in my store, he was standing near my door. I thought he was an ordinary man, but then I saw that he wore a pectoral cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. I took him into my shop. I was very happy and my tears were rolling when I shook hands with him. With his smiling face he called me outside and we had a pleasant conversation.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Philoumenos of Jacob’s Well: The Birth of a Contemporary Ritual Murder Myth


“Philoumenos of Jacob’s Well: The Birth of a Contemporary Ritual Murder Myth”

By David Gurevich and Yisca Harani

Israel Studies
Volume 22, Number 2, Summer 2017
pp. 26-54

Abstract

In 1979, the Orthodox monk Philoumenos Hasapis was violently murdered in Jacob’s Well Church in Nablus. His death was described as a ritual murder performed by a fanatical Jewish-Israeli group. Philoumenos was later sanctified by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The story gained publicity among Orthodox Christian communities around the world and was accredited by various NGOs and scholars. However, the factual basis of the event dismissed any ritualistic motives or collective accusations for the murder. The development patterns of the popular narrative are assessed against the backdrop of similar accusations levied against medieval Jewish communities in Europe, as well as contemporary framing of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict in the media. The conclusions suggest reasons for the wide publicity that the narrative received, based on the cultural context of its target audience, the interests of the Orthodox Church, and the role of political actors involved.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

A Buddhist Woman Who Became an Orthodox Christian After a Vision on Holy Thursday

Holy Monastery of Saints Marina and Raphael in Xylotymbou

By K. Triantaphylou

From my five-day stay in Cyprus I will record due to brevity only what lessons I learned at the Holy Monastery of Saint Marina and Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene in Xylotymbou of the Holy Metropolis of Kition. The spiritual father, serving priest and founder of this Monastery was Protopresbyter Kyriakos Panagiotou, who among other things has a sweet voice. Because of his sweet voice, the late Archbishop Makarios of Cyprus had him ordained as his deacon, but he refused, saying he preferred to serve as a priest in his village.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Relationship Between Orthodoxy and Karate


Nobuyuki-Gheoghe Nukina, Japanese karate fighter and teacher, in the second part of his interview (see first part here about his conversion to Orthodoxy) to Pemptousia, talks about the relationship between Orthodoxy and karate, as he sees it and how he teaches it to his students.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Conversion of a Japanese Shintoist/Buddhist to Orthodox Christianity


Nobuyuki-Gheoghe Nukina, a Japanese karate fighter, was interviewed by Pemptousia upon a recent visit to Mount Athos, in which he speaks about how he became Orthodox, and briefly talks about Orthodoxy in Japan.




Thursday, January 24, 2019

"For the Sake of the World: The Spirit of Buddhist and Christian Monasticism" (Book Review by Fr. John Romanides)


For the Sake of the World: The Spirit of Buddhist and Christian Monasticism

By Patrick G. Henry and Donald K. Swearer

Reviewed by John S. Romanides

The authors of this valuable and interesting book understand "contemplation" and an "urge for transcendence" to be a basic similarity between Buddhist and Christian monasticism. This is true for Augustinian neo-Platonism, which is the position adopted by this book as normative for the Christian monastic tradition.

However, the Augustinian synthesis between neo-Platonism and the Bible was never accepted in the East, and was rejected in the West by both Celtic and Gallo-Roman monasticism. It did not, finally, take hold in Merovingian Gaul; this is why St. Gregory of Tours, an admirer of Sts. Basil and John Cassian, never mentions Augustine. That is to say, such Gallo-Romans as Sts. Martin of Tours, Aridius, Patroclos, and the Lombard Stylite Vulfailac belong to the same biblical tradition as the fathers in the East. In 529 Emperor Justinian closed the Platonic school of Athens, and when Augustine's writings became known in the East he was dropped from the list of "fathers of the church," as these were understood there.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Birth of Christ Celebrates the End of the Sickness of Religion



By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The feast of the Birth of Christ cannot be confined to a few sentimental situations: festive decorations, an intellectual and rationalistic interpretation of events, a moralistic framework; rather it has a very profound meaning and existential significance. If one remains at an external level, then they are leaving themselves hungry and thirsty, deprived of a life of meaning and existential freedom.

The incarnation of Christ was considered and was celebrated by the Fathers of the Church and the worshipping ecclesiastical community as the abolishing of religion and its transformation into a Church. In fact, the ever-memorable Father John Romanides had said in the most categorical way that Christ became human, in order to free us of the sickness of religion.