Friday, May 7, 2010

Romanian Greek Catholics: Memorandum pt. 2

More from the 2002 Memorandum from Romanian Greek Catholics to the government of Romania:

The unification of Transylvania with Romania has consigned a spiritual bind of all Romanians with the rest of Europe, with the cradle of the Latin and universal civilization. This unification took place in the 1700's through the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome. We do not deem the fact that there are two separate beliefs, a Catholic and an Orthodox one, but a Christian one. The right to choose a place of actual manifestation of either of these is one of the essential liberties of each human being. 

Through the unification of the Romanian Church from Transylvania with Rome, the Romanians gained access to the Western schools of thought and culture, and the priests had received their education in the Latin language in Rome, and not in Tarigrad which maintained an education in the Slavonic language. Greek-Catholic Bishop Inochentie Micu, an emblematic personality for our entire nation, pronounced for the first time the name of our nation as "Romanian," and fought to his death for the rights of all Romanians in Transylvania, not only for the Greek-Catholic ones.

From a political perspective and for the first time in world history, due to the recognition given to the Romanians from the Pope and from Europe as a self-sufficient European nation within the Austrian Empire, the Romanian nation had become the fourth recognized nation, although Romanians were not considered to be a tolerated nation within Transylvania. This was an event of great importance in those times, somewhat comparable with the present entrance and acceptance of Romania into the European Union. 

The Romanian Greek-Catholic disciples were given the true revelation pertaining to the true Latin origin of our nation through their studies completed in Rome and through the thorough knowledge achieved of our Latin origins. These origins have been proved through many studies and specialized analytical works. This is how the Ardelean School was born, which generated patriotic pride, this being the light that provoked an awakening to the Romanian national conscience.

The Ardelean School was the first and true Romanian movement through which the Romanian people have been defined: origin - daco-roman, language - of Latin origin, alphabet - Latin, name - Romanian, tri-colored flag - the three Romanian provinces. The leaders of this School were Samuil Micu, Gheorghe Sincai, Petru Maior, whom were all Greek-Catholics. Due to this perspective, it is important to remark the fact that the official birth act of the modern Romanian European nation was written by Greek-Catholicism! 

Nobody up until these great teachers of the Ardelean School had ever pointed out clearly our true Latin origin. And nobody else has ever identified us as well as they did as a people. Exactly because of this the Romanian people should never forget or attempt to minimize the fundamental role that was really played by Greek-Catholicism in the history of our country. The Ardelean School was not only a cultural movement but a political one as well. It had an enormous impact on the development of our nation. Its importance was crucial in the formation and emancipation of the modern Romanian people, which is comparable to our ethno-genesis after the prevailing of the Romans over Dacia. 

In the beginning of the 19th century, Gheorghe Lazar and Gheorghe Asachi, being strongly influenced by the Ardelean School, had established the first public Romanian schools of systematic education in Muntenia, and respectively in Moldova, with professors that had been educated at the Ardelean School! It should be with great dignity to remark on the fact that during this period the spoken language in the few established schools was not yet Romanian. The Romanian edification only develops later in history, with the contribution of the professors trained in the spirit of the Ardelean School. It becomes evident, therefore, that Romanians from the separate regions of the country owe the creation of the Romanian education system to the first established Greek-Catholic schools! 

Greek-Catholicism has given Romania an impressive list of cultural and religious personalities: Inochentie Micu, Samuil Micu, Gheorghe Sincai, Petru Maior, Gh. Baritiu, Timotei Cipariu, Andrei Muresanu, Ioan Ratiu, I.G. Pop de Basesti, Vasile Lucaciu, George Cosbuc, Liviu Rebreanu, Ion Agarbiceanu, Iuliu Maniu, Iuliu Hossu, Cornel Coposu and many, many more.

It is also evident that the reinvigoration of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome will truly be a great cause for the Church of Christ. This Church has always been a bridge between Christianity of Occidental and Oriental traditions.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Public Preacher Faces Charges of Hate Speech

Not a topic particular to the purpose of Irenikon, but certainly something that should be of concern to all Christians who take seriously the magisterial charge to go and make disciples. [Matthew 28:19]


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Romanian Greek Catholics: Memorandum pt. 1

The following is taken from the Summary Content of a Memorandum sent to all major members of the Romanian Government in 2002 addressed from the Greek-Catholic Believers from Romania and from the Entire World.

It is a difficult document to read.

Anyone who has suffered the demeaning yoke of oppression, of ANY kind, will recognize the extreme effort that it takes to approach the oppressor possessed of the full dignity of the human condition, and demand your right to operate freely and without restraint and surely without fear of imprisonment and loss of life and property, knowing that you will be ignored, mocked in public or in private, and perhaps even subjected to more intense pressures because of your daring to challenge the authority born of economic, political and military might. It is an important background document for those who have an interest in Orthodox-Catholic dialogue and the health and well being of eastern Catholic Churches in central or eastern European countries.  The Romanian Greek-Catholic Church played a pivotal and courageous role in the firm establishment of Romanian language and culture within the geopolitical boundaries that constitute modern Romania.  For that alone she should not be consigned to the dustbin of history.  I will post more on that in a subsequent article.  The outcome of the memorandum has not resulted in much change in circumstance over the ensuing eight years to the present.


Most respected Representatives of Romania,

With great regret we have reached the firm conclusion that, even though more than 12 years have passed since the Anti-Communist Revolution in 1989, the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome in Romania continues to be extremely discriminated against.

This discrimination is mostly based on political and religious reasons, and is manifested through the following conducts:

* Complete limitation on the rights to justice of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church Unite with Rome, in Romania.

* Refusal by the State of Romania to return all nationalized and confiscated goods to the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome, in Romania.

* Legislative acts drawn to limit even in our present times the nationalization and confiscation that took place in 1948.

* Allowing incitement to take place on religious motives and reasons.

* Refusal by the State of Romania to apply the established laws and permitting for these to be disrespected by some members of staff and by other diverse pressure groups.

* Authorizing the illegal demolition and destruction of religious edifices and peripheral establishments that are part of our Church.

*Consenting to sell and destroy the goods of our Church, even when some of them were declared
to be valued objects of the National Treasury...

Due to the loss and dereavement of the churches, rectory homes and all pertaining properties, the Greek-Catholic believers feel as though there is no appropriate place of prayer and recollection for their spiritual lives and desires. The present government of Romania continues to practice the same politics as the Communist one, which in 1948 terminated all the functions of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome, and confiscated all of its goods. Out of the over 2030 churches that initially belonged to the above-mentioned, only 136 of them were returned, making it impossible to practice the religion freely and in a normal manner, the priests and the faithful celebrating the Holy Sacraments in more than 350 improvised places (such as chapels, garages, refectories, heating stations, etc.). We did not succeed in receiving back neither the cathedral churches from Oradea, Baia-Mare, or Gherla, nor the vicariate church from Bucharest.

The State of Romania sustains through its central and local institutions an atmosphere of a so-called "active non-intervention" via which it tries to throw its entire legal obligation to the restitution of the goods to the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church towards beneficiaries of these goods. These beneficiaries are represented by either its own created institutions or by the Romanian Orthodox Church. The above described is an actual abuse that creates disintegration, grief, confusion, and sometimes even violence amongst the citizens of Romania. Due to the hostile policy practiced by the State of Romania towards the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome, of the multiple intimidating actions, many believers do not dare to declare themselves Greek-Catholics for fear of losing their jobs! This fact has become obvious from the 2001 Report of the Bureau for Democracy, Religious Liberty and Work of the American Government, as well as from the Report of the American State Department which is referenced in regards to the religious freedom in Romania, presented in the attached addendum's.

We are aware of the fact that the Romanian Orthodox Church is the majoritarian representative and that almost all of the employees of the State of Romania are of the Orthodox religion. However, even though we are a minority in the country, along with the Roman-Catholics, Reformed, Neo-Protestants, Mozaics, we consider ourselves free citizens that have the right to live boundless and full of demnity in Romania, having the right for protection from the authorities of the State.

The Romanian Orthodox Church is our sister Church, and she is not the one to be held liable for the nationalization and confiscation of our goods. The responsible party is the State of Romania! We cannot accept this dismemberment between our Greek Catholic and Orthodox believers, a dismemberment that is directly or indirectly created by the State of Romania. The present State of Romania is the direct and rightful inheritor of the Communist State, which tried to make extinct the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome between the years 1945-1989. It was the Communist State that confiscated the goods, liquidated the parishes, persecuted and prosecuted the clergy and part of the active population. The Communist State was the one to constantly and systematically stalk and persecute, for a time amounting to over four decades, the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome. This was done with extreme detail and consistency, and the end result was a complete eradication of the existence of this Church.

We would like to point out to the Romanian State that the great majority of the Episcopalian buildings, schools, academies, monasteries, churches and functional buildings and forestry areas were all built out of the funds, strength and will of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome, or they might have been received from church-like authorities other than the State of Romania, and foremost, they were acquired long before the final formation and unification of the National State of Romania in 1918! Another issue we would like to point out is that in our whole history, there has never been a power, foreign or not, that has even attempted to confiscate the goods and properties of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome! It was through all types of abusive acts that the State of Romania brutally took and then donated the properties to which they had not contributed in the very first place!

Furthermore, in its constant trials of suppression of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome, the State of Romania permits, even in our present times, the overly abusive demolition (dismemberment, burning) of many of our churches, as well as the destroying of other mobile or immobile goods that are still part of the Church's patrimony and treasure. Based on these reasons, and hoping that justice still exists in Romania, the direct party of dialogue for the Greek-Catholic followers is and will always remain the State of Romania.

In the 21st century, at the portal of the entrance of Romania into NATO and the European Community, such abuses cannot be tolerated by rights or by facts! Furthermore, with the great hope that the situation in Romania will re-establish itself to a normal level and that the human rights will finally be respected, the Romanians that reside in the country and outside of it, including the Greek Catholic ones, support fully the entrance of Romania into NATO. We have to keep aware of the fact that the representatives of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome have remained faithful to the document signed in Snagov, and continue to support the integration of Romania into the European and Euro-Atlantic structures.

An organization was also founded in the Chicago area of the United States, under the name of "Romania NATO Alliance," which has as its founders a considerable amount of Greek-Catholics. In December of 2001, this community-like organization had exerted great influence in an extremely decisive manner on the motion supported by Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, so that Romania would be accepted into NATO.

Due to the fact that many processes of legislative procedures had already been initiated and filed in the past with the State of Romania by the high ranking officials of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome, and all have unmistakably failed, we, the parishioners of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome, from Romania and the entire world, feel it is our obligation of conscience to initiate our own process and action in order to defend our rights. Therefore, based on the main principles of freedom, as well as the historic, social, cultural and religious arguments enumerated in the completion of this document, we directly address to you this MEMORANDUM.

We firmly demand that the State of Romania:

Respect the constitutional rights of existence and practice of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome, the right to celebrate and practice its own religion in respectable locations, the right to propagate the given beliefs, and the right to openly communicate the beliefs and laws of the religion. This includes the right to freely express the self identity of all Greek-Catholic believers, as well as those of Greek-Catholic descent and religious background.

Immediately stop the discrimination and the constant attempt of suppression of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome.

To stop the demolition and dismemberment of our churches and to immediately provide security to all Greek-Catholic Churches and other buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries, which under Law NR. 422/18.07.2001, are stated to be historic monuments that shall be fully protected.

Immediate and unconditional restitution to the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome, all of the goods that were nationalized and confiscated by the Communist State of Romania. This shall be done by creating and forming firm legislative statements, which shall conform to the Constitution of Romania and with all the international treaties to which the State of Romania is bound to respect.

The State of Romania shall do restitution of the goods without the intervention of any intermediary party (i.e. various third parties or current beneficiaries of the confiscated goods). The dialogue between the Orthodox and Greek-Catholic representatives should only pertain to the actual final identification of the goods and of the practices through which this restitution will take place. The issue of future access and usage of the properties by the Orthodox parishes will only be resolved at the time when all restitution was finalized with the Greek-Catholic parishes. This is the decent and normal way that will ensure Christian and brotherly love between the two religions. This procedure of restitution was expressed and manifested by the representatives of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome ever since 1990.

The immediate abolition of Law-Decree NR. 126/1990, for its unconstitutionality reason. The transfer of the juridical duties of a State to a mixed ecclesiastic committee, which would carry out the restitution, is illegal, abusive and curtailing the right to justice for the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome. It also eludes the constitutional right and obligation of a State.

To apply through practice the actual abrogation and consequences of Decree-Law NR. 9 from December 31, 1989, due to the fact that this is considered to be an act "against the Romanian people," and cannot constitute a source of human rights. Nothing and nobody, let alone someone in an abusive possession of power or in the possession of unconstitutional legislative acts, can operate or put into practice the actual process of changes for the properties.

To rush the restitution of the property rights (and placing immediately in possession) of all agricultural and forestry occupied land belonging to the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church.

To return a given amount of funds in order to rebuild the infrastructure of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome, which would stand as a mending act. These funds were initially taken away from the above-mentioned at the time it was dismounted by the Communist State.

It was 110 years ago, in 1892, when Greek-Catholic Romanians from Transylvania belonging to the Memorandum Movement were demanding equal rights for the Romanian nation and all in one voice would pronounce that: "The existence of a nation cannot be discussed! It can only be affirmed!"

Therefore, today, all of us in one voice are asking for our legitimate and lawful right for the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church, by paraphrasing the famous declaration, we pronounce that: The existence of a Church cannot be discussed. it can only be affirmed!

We consider that these are our lawfully given rights, and we ask of the State of Romania to respect them fully. We do not wish to entreaty the international forums, so we can finally have our rights given to us in our own country! If the State of Romania does not intervene urgently in this matter, we will see it necessary to address the issue as an international concern.

We demand that the Romanian State follow the example of other states in the region and proceed to an immediate and unconditional restitution to the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome of all goods that were nationalized and confiscated by the Communist State of Romania.

We would like to mention the fact that we wish to resolve the situation of our Church by October 25, 2002. After this given date, we will consider that everything that should and could have been done through civilized negotiations has already taken place and that our only solution to stop the discrimination against the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome is to address this issue to the international forums.

At this point, we want to remind you of the words that were spoken by IPS Nicolae Corneanu, Archbishop of Timisoara and Orthodox Mitropolit of Banat, whom with lots of courage and feelings of brotherhood had said: "We have not entered into your churches to steal them away from you, but to return them to you when the time has come."


© 2003-2009 Romanian Catholic Diocese of Canton, PO Box 7189 Canton OH 44705-0189

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Orthodox Constructions of the West Update

Second International Conference of the Orthodoxy in America Lecture Series;  Co-Sponsored by the Center for Medieval Studies, Fordham University June 28-30, 2010, at the Rose Hill campus of Fordham University in the Bronx.  Conference update here


Hope in the Grace of God and Guard Your Thoughts

It was said that some philosophers came one day to test the monks. One monk, a Libyan, passed by, and they said to him, "You old scoundrel of a monk, come here," and they compelled him to come. They gave him a box on the ear, but he offered them the other cheek. At once the philosophers arose and prostrated themselves before him, saying, "Truly this is a monk." Then they sat him down in their midst and questioned him, "What do you, in the desert, do more than we? You fast, and we also fast; you keep vigil, and we also keep vigil; and all you do, we do also. What more do you who live in the desert do?" The old man said to them, "We hope in the grace of God and guard our thoughts." They said to him, "We are not able to do that." Edified, they took their leave.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Senseless-Systematic Destruction of Greek Catholic Property in Romania

NOTE: Be sure to read the comments for this article,  which serve to open the situation to more than one perspective.

The homepage of the Romanian Greek Catholic Association has a photo of this parish church in Sapanta (above) that does not at all appear as though it is being renovated.   With due respect, if my home were renovated in like manner I'd be living out in the yard very soon.

The destruction of confiscated Romanian Catholic parish churches in Romania is an ongoing tragedy of familial proportions.  Sadly these instances are occurring in the immediate moment.  They are not forty or sixty years old, and there is no indication that their frequency is declining.   A website in English highlights this one case out of many:

"The Romanian Greek-Catholic Community is facing with a cultural and religious wipe-out: the Greek-Catholic churches are systematically destroyed by the Orthodox Church representatives, whose actions are supported and accepted by the Romanian authorities, the Romanian Greek-Catholic Association accuses in a letter addressed to Hillary Clinton, the US state secretary.   

Romanian Greek-Catholic Association, Inc. is a non-for-profit association registered in the United States of America, aiming to support the Greek-Catholic communities.  

Head of the association priest Cristian Terhes argues that "the citizens are harassed and threatened because they declare themselves Greek-Catholic; the rights and freedoms of the Greek-Catholics are systematically infringed, without the State interfering".

The quoted letter draws attention upon the situation of the Geek-Catholic church next to the Merry Cemetery from Sapanta, Maramures (North Romania, Transylvania) and upon the fact that "the Romanian state institutions could not find the time for the last two weeks to enforce a court decision that specifically demands an end to the demolishing and building actions".

"Since the abolition of Communism in 1989, the Romanian authorities haven’t done anything to return the assets confiscated by the communists to their rightful owners", the association claims. The organisation requests the State Department to reintroduce "the situation of violating the human rights and the civil rights in case of the Romanian Greek-Catholic community" on the discussions agenda that the US politicians will have with Romanian officials in the future.  

All documents referring to the situation in Sapanta can be downloaded from the following address: Romanian Orthodox Church is destroying the "Merry Cemetrey” in Sapanta."

In 1948 the Romanian Church United with Rome, Greek-Catholic was outlawed, and all its assets, including churches, were handed over to the Orthodox church. After the fall of the Communist regime, the Greek Catholics requested that their churches be returned, but so far only 16 of the 2600 claimed churches have been returned. There are reports that several old Greek Catholic churches were demolished while under the administration of the Orthodox Church.  The map of Romania here shows the areas in Romania were there is a significant number of Romanian Catholics.  Clicking on the image will allow you to enlarge the image so that you can read the legend in the upper right hand corner.

 In a CNEWA [Catholic Near East Welfare Association] article, author Ronald Roberson says:

"After 41 years underground, the fortunes of the Greek Catholic Church in Romania changed dramatically after the Ceausescu regime was overthrown in December 1989. On January 2, 1990, the 1948 decree which dissolved the church was abrogated. Greek Catholics began to worship openly again, and three secretly ordained bishops emerged from hiding. On March 14, 1990, Pope John Paul II reestablished the hierarchy of the church by appointing bishops for all five dioceses. 

Unfortunately the reemergence of the Greek Catholic Church was accompanied by a confrontation with the Romanian Orthodox Church over the restitution of church buildings. The Catholics insisted that all property be returned as a matter of justice, while the Orthodox held that any transfer of property must take into account the present pastoral needs of both communities. In 1998 a bilateral commission between the Orthodox and Greek Catholics was established to resolve property issues, but progress was slow and only 16 churches were returned as a result of its work. It has practically ceased activity since 2004. Altogether less than 200 former Greek Catholic churches had been returned by 2006, many of them in the Banat region where Orthodox Metropolitan Nicolae was more willing to allow the return of Greek Catholic property. More than 200 worshipping communities are still without a church and compelled to meet in public places. In the meantime the Greek Catholic Church has reduced its property claims from an initial list of 2,600 to less than 300."

The case of Romania is one of particular interest to me,  and the reasons for that interest will become more apparent during the lifetime of the blog.  I can say in brief that Father Dimitru Staniloae, out of all of the contemporary Orthodox fathers,  has had a significant impact over the decades, on my own personal openness to Orthodox spirituality and doctrinal teachings.  So in that way I have a sense of being personally invested in what happens between Romanian Orthodox and Romanian Catholics in Romania.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Daniel (Alexandrow) of Erie, Eternal Rest

His Grace, the Right Reverend Bishop Daniel (Alexandrow) of Erie is a vicar bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, serving as Vicar President of the Synod of Bishops for the Old Believers under his jurisdiction's care.

Bishop Daniel was born Dimitri Borisovich Alexandrow in Odessa, Russia, in 1930. Due to anti-Communist family connections, Dimitri's father, Boris Alexandrow, decided to move the family to Zlatoust in the Ural Mountains in 1938. Within just a few months of the move, Boris was arrested and disappeared; it was later found out he was executed. Mrs. Alexandrow then moved her family back to Odessa. In 1944 they left westward with the fleeing German Army, and within two years found themselves living in the Alps. Thanks to family in the United States, the Alexandrows were able to emigrate to America, and came to New York in 1949. From 1952 to 1958, Dimitri studied at Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary (Jordanville, New York), finishing with the first graduating class, along with the future Metropolitan Laurus (Skurla). From his early years, Dimitri Borisovich was interested in the pre-Nikonian "Old Rite" of the Russian Orthodox Church, and decided to work toward somehow healing the schism of the Old Believers. In August of 1965, he was ordained deacon, and soon afterwards, priest. In 1988, he received the monastic tonsure and the new name of Daniel. On August 13, 1988, Hieromonk Daniel was consecrated as a vicar bishop for the Diocese of Eastern America, with the title "Bishop of Erie, Pennsylvania, Defender of the Old Rite". The Church of the Nativity is his Cathedra, whose congregation he played an integral role in reuniting with the Russian Orthodox Church. He was temporary administrator of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand from 1995 to 1997.

Bishop Daniel is a man of many talents, which have been extremely useful to many people. He is a master iconographer, having studied in his youth with the famed Old Believer iconographer Pimen Sofronov, and knows the ancient methods with which to obtain all-natural pigments. He is one of the few people left who can read the znamenny ("kriukovoi", or "hook-style") musical notation, which fell out of general usage in Russian Church singing in the early 18th century. He is also an experienced architect, having designed such churches as the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Washington, D.C. (ROCOR). Also, simply doing his own extensive research on ancient rites came in useful during the elevation of Metropolitan Philaret in 1964. This was the first time the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia had elected a successor who was not a Metropolitan in episcopal rank, and inasmuch as the remainder bishops were of lesser rank themselves, many were unsure of the elevation in such a situation. However, thanks to the research of Bishop Daniel, who was yet a reader, the Synod of Bishops was able to essentially replicate the office of elevation of a Metropolitan as performed in 15th century Russia.

In the morning of 4/26/2010 Bishop Daniel reposed in the Lord.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Martyrdom of the Apostle St. Mark the Evangelist

In the time of the dispensation of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, after his Ascension into heaven, all the countries were allotted among the apostles, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, that they might preach in them the words of the good tidings of the Lord Jesus Christ. And after a time it fell to the lot of Mark the evangelist to go to the province of Egypt, and the great city of Alexandria, by the command of the Holy Ghost, that he might cause the people to hear the words of the gospel of the Lord Christ, and confirm them therein; for they were in error and sunk in the service of idols, and in the worship of the creature instead of the Creator. And they had many temples to their contemptible gods, whom they ministered to in every place, and served with every iniquity and magical art, and to whom they offered sacrifices among themselves. For he was the first who preached in the province of Egypt, and Africa, and Pentapolis, and all those regions.

So when the holy Mark returned from Rome, he betook himself first to Pentapolis and preached in all its districts the word of God, and shewed many miracles; for he healed the sick, and cleansed the lepers, and cast out devils by the grace of God which descended upon him. And many believed in the Lord Christ through him, and broke their idols which they used to worship, and all the trees which the devils used to haunt, and from which they addressed the people. And he baptized them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, the One God.

And so the Holy Ghost appeared to him, and said to him: "Rise and go to the city of Alexandria, to sow there the good seed which is the word of God." So the disciple of Christ arose and set out, being strengthened by the Holy Ghost, like a combatant in war; and he saluted the brethren, and took leave of them and said to them: "The Lord Jesus Christ will make my road easy, that I may go to Alexandria and preach his holy gospel there." Then he prayed and said: "O Lord strengthen the brethren who have known thy holy name that I may return to them rejoicing in them." Then the brethren bade him farewell.

So Mark journeyed to the city of Alexandria; and when he entered in at the gate, the strap of his shoe broke. And when he saw this, he thought: "Now I know that the Lord has made my way easy." Then he turned, and saw a cobbler there, and went to him and gave him the shoe that he might mend it. And when the cobbler received it, and took the awl to work upon it, the awl pierced his hand. So he said: "Heis ho Theos"; the interpretation of which is, "God is One". And when the holy Mark heard him mention the name of God, he rejoiced greatly, and turned his face to the East and said: "O my Lord Jesus, it is thou that makest my road easy in every place."

Then he spat on the ground and took from it clay, and put it on the place where the awl had pierced the cobbler's hand, saying: "In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, the One living and eternal God, may the hand of this man be healed at this moment, that thy holy name may be glorified." Then his hand at once became whole.

The holy Mark said to him: "If thou knowest that God is one, why dost thou serve these many gods?" The cobbler answered him: "We mention God with our mouths, but that is all; for we know not who he is."

And the cobbler remained astonished at the power of God which descended upon the holy Mark, and said to him: "I pray thee, O man of God, to come to the dwelling of thy servant, to rest and eat bread, for I find to-day thou hast conferred a benefit upon me." Then the holy Mark replied with joy: "May the Lord give thee the bread of life in heaven!" And he went with him to his house. And when he entered his dwelling, he said, "May the blessing of God be in this house!" and he uttered a prayer.

After they had eaten, the cobbler said to him: "O my father, I beg thee to make known to me who thou art that hast worked this great miracle." Then the saint answered him: "I serve Jesus Christ, the Son of the ever living God." The cobbler exclaimed: "I would that I could see him." The holy Mark said to him: "I will cause thee to behold him."

Then he began to teach him the gospel of good tidings, and the doctrine of the glory and power and dominion which belong to God from the beginning, and exhorted him with many exhortations and instructions, of which his history bears witness, and ended by saying to him: "The Lord Christ in the last times became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and came into the world, and saved us from our sins." And he explained to him what the prophets prophetised of him, passage by passage.

Then the cobbler said to him: "I have never heard at all of these books which thou speakest of; but the books of the Greek philosophers are what men teach their children here, and so do the Egyptians."

So the holy Mark said to him: "The wisdom of the philosophers of this world is vanity before God." Then when the cobbler had heard wisdom and the words of the Scriptures from the holy Mark, together with the great miracle which he had seen him work upon his hand, his heart inclined towards him, and he believed in the Lord, and was baptised, he and all the people of his house, and all his neighbours. And his name was Annianus.

And when those that believed in the Lord were multiplied, and the people of the city heard that a man who was a Jew and a Galilean had entered the city, wishing to overthrow the worship of the idols, their gods, and had persuaded many to abstain from serving them, they sought him everywhere; and they appointed men to watch for him. So when the holy Mark knew that they were conspiring together, he ordained Annianus bishop of Alexandria, and also ordained three priests and seven deacons, and appointed these eleven to serve and to comfort the faithful brethren. But he himself departed from among them, and went to Pentapolis, and remained there two years, preaching and appointing bishops and priests and deacons in all their districts.

Then he returned to Alexandria, and found that the brethren had been strengthened in the faith, and had multiplied by the grace of God, and had found means to build a church in a place called the Cattle-pasture [Ta Boukolou], near the sea, beside a rock from which stone is hewn. So the holy Mark greatly rejoiced at this; and he fell upon his knees, and blessed God for confirming the servants of the faith, whom he had himself instructed in the doctrines of the Lord Christ, and because they had turned away from the service of idols.

But when those unbelievers learnt that the holy Mark had returned to Alexandria, they were filled with fury on account of the works which the believers in Christ wrought, such as healing the sick, and driving out devils, and loosing the tongues of the dumb, and opening the ears of the deaf, and cleansing the lepers; and they sought for the holy Mark with great fury, but found him not; and they gnashed against him with their teeth in their temples and places of their idols, in wrath, saying: "Do you not see the wickedness of this sorcerer?"

And on the first day of the week, the day of the Easter festival of the Lord Christ, which fell that year on the 29th of Barmudah, when the festival of the idolatrous unbelievers also took place, they sought him with zeal, and found him in the sanctuary. So they rushed forward and seized him, and fastened a rope round his throat, and dragged him along the ground, saying: "Drag the serpent through the cattle-shed! [Syromen ton boubalon en tois Boukolou!]" But the saint, while they dragged him, kept praising God and saying: "Thanks be to thee, O Lord, because Thou hast made me worthy to suffer for thy holy name." And his flesh was lacerated, and clove to the stones of the streets; and his blood ran over the ground.

So when evening came, they took him to the prison, that they might take counsel how they should put him to death. And at midnight, the doors of the prison being shut, and the gaolers asleep at the doors, behold there was a great earthquake and a mighty tumult. And the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and entered to the saint, and said to him: "O Mark, servant of God, behold thy name is written in the book of life; and thou art numbered among the assembly of the saints, and thy soul shall sing praises with the angels in the heavens; and thy body shall not perish nor cease to exist upon earth."

And when he awoke from his sleep he raised his eyes to heaven, and said: "I thank thee, O my Lord Jesus Christ, and pray thee to receive me to thyself, that I may be happy in thy goodness." And when he had finished these words, he slept again; and the Lord Christ appeared to him in the form in which the disciples knew him and said to him: "Hail Mark, the evangelist and chosen one!" So the saint said to him: "I thank thee, O my Saviour Jesus Christ, because thou hast made me worthy to suffer for thy holy name." And the Lord and Saviour gave him his salutation, and disappeared from him.

And when he awoke, and morning had come, the multitude assembled, and brought the saint out of the prison, and put a rope again round his neck, and said: "Drag the serpent through the cattle-shed!" And they drew the saint along the ground, while he gave thanks to the Lord Christ, and glorified him, saying: "I render my spirit into thy hands, O my God!" After saying these words, the saint gave up the ghost.

Then the ministers of the unclean idols collected much wood in a place called Angelion, that they might burn the body of the saint there. But by the command of God there was a thick mist and a strong wind, so that the earth trembled; and much rain fell, and many of the people died of fear and terror; and they said: "Verily, Serapis, the idol, has come to seek the man who has been killed this day."

Then the faithful brethren assembled, and took the body of the holy Saint Mark from the ashes; and nothing in it had been changed. And they carried it to the church in which they used to celebrate the Liturgy; and they enshrouded it, and prayed over it according to the established rites. And they dug a place for him, and buried his body there; that they might preserve his memory at all times with joy and supplication, and benediction, on account of the grace which the Lord Christ gave them by his means in the city of Alexandria. And they placed him in the eastern part of the church, on the day on which his martyrdom was accomplished (he being the first of the Galileans to be martyred for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in Alexandria), namely the last day of Barmudah according to the reckoning of the Egyptians, which is equivalent to the 8th day before the kalends of May among the months of the Romans, and the 24th of Nisan among the months of the Hebrews.

And we also, the sons of the orthodox, offer glory and sanctification and praise to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom is due laud and honour and worship, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, the Giver of Life and Consubstantial One, now and forever


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Wilt Thou Be Made Whole

Acts 9:36-43 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38 Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, "Please come at once!" 39 Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. 40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, "Tabitha,get up." She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. 41 He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.

~ ~ ~ 

The Epistle reading for the Sunday of the Paralytic concerns the woman Dorcas as she is called in Greek, or Tabitha as she is known in the Syro-Chaldaic languages.  As the story is told Dorcas takes ill suddenly and dies, and the body is prepared for burial and laid out in an upper room in a house in Joppa.  The community in Joppa is so stunned and shaken by the loss of Dorcas that they call for Peter, whom they know is nearby in Lydda.  They send two disciples out to bring him to Joppa by the sea.  There is no indication that they think that Peter can restore her to life, so Peter is called upon to come as an elder and authority among the Christian communities to help to fill a significant lacuna left by the woman, Dorcas.  They call him to come and help to show them the way forward without her.

The name Dorcas is a name meaning "gazelle."  Because of the gentle and lovely appearance and temperament of the female gazelle, the name Dorcas was common among female children, and the Dorcas of the story in Acts apparently lived up to that name in many exceptional ways.  She apparently was a most compassionate of women.  She made disciples by her acts of kindness and generosity, by her ability to move about in the community with the common people experiencing their lives as her own and filling in what was lacking as she was able.  She was a woman devoted to those in need and she was recognized as a significant leader in the budding Christian commune of Joppa.  Her passing would leave confusion and disintegration in its wake, for clearly the people called upon Peter to come to them, for they did not know how to go on without Dorcas.

Compassion is a virture strongly identified with the Incarnate Christ for it is more than simply being kind to someone or showing a great deal of sympathy or even empathy.  Compassion means to put yourself in the place of the suffering of another, and at all costs to self, to do something to alleviate that suffering.  It means to walk with those whose welfare you have in mind and at heart.  Compassion places us and keeps us on the road to Emmaus, and draws all who will follow along with us, and insures that they will be fed and clothed and given a chance to live their own lives in the imitation of Christ.

And so Peter goes to Joppa and to Dorcas, and as he kneels and prays by her bier, he does so in the hopes that the Christian community at Joppa may find guidance, and with all confidence that the already Risen Christ will restore Dorcas and her newly forming Christian community.  Luke lingers a while on this story in Acts, realizing the implications of the fact that Peter, for the first time since Pentecost, has invoked the power of the resurrection to bestow new life not only on Dorcas but also on the little body of Christians newly in her care.

Finally, this story about spirit filled life in the early Body of Christ is strategically told in juxtaposition to the story of the Paralytic who looks at Christ and cries "I have no man!"   Compare the reaction to the sickness and death of the gentle  and generous Dorcas, and the reaction of Christ to the cramped and twisted being that sits at the edge of the pool bereft of all companionship, of all compassion. 

To the Paralytic Jesus says "Wilt thou be made whole?"  But through Peter, Dorcas is reanimated without question!
Dorcas is raised up to a renewed life, in and by the grace of Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  

The Paralytic is forgiven and healed in body, but he is sent away with Christ's warning to him, "Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee."  

We leave Dorcas knowing that she will return to her little flock and will take them with her along the pathway to Jesus Christ.  We leave the paralytic not knowing whether he will heed the words of Jesus or not.  The fact that we are all here by the grace of Jesus Christ is never a guarantee that we will use that grace to do his will, but rather turn it to our own will and to satisfy our own purpose and our own inability to show forth in holy compassion.

Wilt Thou Be Made Whole?

Copyright, 2010


Friday, April 23, 2010

The Holy GreatMartyr George the Victory-Bearer

Today we commemorate the life and holy death of The Holy GreatMartyr George the Victory-Bearer!  There are few other saints of the ancient Christian world who have captured the imagination and fervor of both the Christian east and the Christian west.  Because St. George must regularly be excavated out from under a mountain of myth and legend, we will examine one full text that tells the story of his brief life and the astonishing wonder-works that God achieved through him in his Martyrs Hours.  

Whether he is was one man capable of withstanding torture in a super-human manner or whether he became a metaphor for all of the strong and brave and faithful martyrs under Diocletian's murderous rule  truly does not matter.  We do know that he is said to have appeared, a generation after his death, to have influence on the life and sanctity of St. Anastasius I of Antioch whose life's achievements and wonder-working sanctity were commemorated on April 20th.

I have chosen to use the text from the translation work of Father S. Janos to tell the story of St. George.  It is long and it is faithful to the ancient texts, such as they have come down to us.  I also wish to use his texts today as an excuse to thank Father Janos for all of the wonderful hours of pleasure he's afforded me with so many of his translations of of the works of Nikolai Berdyaev and the maintenance of the on-line bibliotek, and his hagiographic translations of the saints here on the Internet.  I have never met Father Janos and perhaps never will, but he is always in my heart and prayers for his good and generous work.  I don't know that any of us could ever thank him enough.

The Holy GreatMartyr George the Victory-Bearer

Commemorated on April 23

The Holy GreatMartyr George the Victory-Bearer, was a native of Cappadocia (a district in Asia Minor), and he grew up in a deeply believing Christian family. His father had accepted a martyr's death for Christ, when George was yet a child. His mother, owning lands in Palestine, resettled there with her son and raised him in strict piety.

Having grown up, Saint George entered into the service of the Roman army. He was handsome, brave and valiant in battle, and he came to the notice of the emperor Diocletian (284-305) and was accepted into the imperial guards with the rank-title of "comites" – one of the higher military officer ranks.

The pagan emperor, while having done much for the restoration of Roman might, and who was quite clearly concerned, as to what sort of danger the triumphing of the Crucified Saviour might present for pagan civilisation, in especially the final years of his reign intensified his persecution against the Christians. Upon the advice of the Senate at Nicomedia, Diocletian afforded all his governors full freedom in their court proceedings over Christians and in this he promised them all possible help.

Saint George, having learned about the decision of the emperor, distributed to the poor all his wealth, set free his servants, and then appeared in the Senate. The brave soldier of Christ spoke out openly against the emperor's designs, he confessed himself a Christian and appealed to all to acknowledge the true faith in Christ: "I am a servant of Christ, my God, and trusting on Him, I have come amidst ye at mine own will, to witness concerning the Truth". "What is Truth?" – one of the dignitaries said, in repeating the question of Pontius Pilate. "Truth is Christ Himself, persecuted by ye", – answered the saint.

Stunned by the bold speech of the valiant warrior, the emperor – who loved and had promoted George, attempted to persuade him not to throw away his youth and glory and honours, but rather in the Roman custom to offer sacrifice to the gods. To this followed the resolute reply of the confessor: "Nothing in this inconstant life can weaken my resolve to serve God". Then by order of the enraged emperor the armed-guards began to jostle Saint George out of the assembly hall with their spears, and they then led him off to prison. But the deadly steel became soft and it bent, just as the spears would touch the body of the saint, and it caused him no hurt. In prison they put the feet of the martyr in stocks and placed an heavy stone on his chest.

The next day at the interrogation, powerless but firm of spirit, Saint George again answered the emperor: "Thou wilt become exhausted sooner, tormenting me, than I being tormented of thee". Then Diocletian gave orders to subject Saint George to some very intense tortures. They tied the GreatMartyr to a wheel, beneathe which were set up boards inset with sharp pieces of iron. With the turning of the wheel the sharp edges tore at the bared body of the saint. At first the sufferer loudly cried out to the Lord, but soon he quieted, not letting out even a single groan. Diocletian decided that the tortured one was already dead, and he gave orders to remove the battered body from the wheel, and set off then to a pagan temple to offer a thank-offering. But at this very moment it got dark all over, thunder boomed, and a voice was heard: "Fear not, George, for I am with thee". Then a wondrous light shone, and at the wheel appeared an Angel of the Lord in the form of a radiant youth. And just as he lay his hand upon the martyr, saying to him: "Rejoice!" ‑- Saint George stood up healed. And when the soldiers led him off to the pagan temple, where the emperor was, the emperor could not believe his own eyes and he thought, that in front of him was some other man or even a ghost.

In confusion and in terror the pagans looked Saint George over carefully, and they became convinced, that actually a miracle had occurred. Many thereupon came to believe in the Life-Creating God of the Christians. Two illustrious officials, Saints Anatolios and Protoleon, – secretly Christians, therewith openly confessed Christ. And right away, without a trial, by order of the emperor they were beheaded with the sword. Present also in the pagan temple was the Empress Alexandra, the wife of Diocletian, and she too knew the truth. She was on the point of glorifying Christ, but one of the servants of the emperor took her and led her off to the palace.

The emperor became all the more furious. But not having lost all hope of swaying Saint George, he gave him over to new quite fiercesome torments. Having thrown him down a deep pit, they covered it over with lime. Three days later they dug him out, but found him cheerful and unharmed. They shod the saint in iron sandals with red-hot nails, and with blows they drove him back to the prison. In the morning, when they led him back to the interrogation, cheerful and with healthy feet, he said to the emperor, that the sandals had fit him. Then they beat him with ox-thongs so much, that his body and blood became mingled with the ground, but the brave sufferer, strengthened by the power of God, remained unyielding.

Having decided, that magic was helping the saint, the emperor summoned the sorcerer Athanasias, so that he should try to deprive the saint of his miraculous powers, or else poison him. The sorcerer gave Saint George two goblets with drugged ingredients, the one of which should have quieted him, and the other – to kill him. But the drugs also did not work – and the saint as before continued to denounce the pagan superstitions and glorify the True God.

To the question of the emperor, what sort of power it was that helped the saint, Saint George answered: "Think not, that the torments do me no harm thanks to human powers, – I am saved only by calling upon Christ and His Power. Whoso believeth on Him hath no regard for tortures and is able to do the deeds, that Christ did" (Jn. 14: 12). Diocletian asked, what sort of deeds were they that Christ did. – "To give sight to the blind, to cleanse the leprous, to grant walking to the lame, and to the deaf – hearing, to cast out devils, and to raise up the dead".

Knowing, that never whether by sorcery, nor by any of the gods known to him, never had they been able to resurrect the dead, and wanting to test the trust of the saint the emperor commanded him to raise up a dead person right in front of his eyes. To this the saint replied: "Thou wouldst tempt me, but for the salvation of the people which shalt see the deed of Christ, my God wilt work this sign". And when they led Saint George down to the graveyard, he cried out: "O Lord! Show to those here present, that Thou art the One-Only God throughout all the world, let them know Thee as the Almighty Lord". And the earth did quake, a grave opened up, the dead one came alive and emerged from it. Having seen with their own eyes the Almighty Power of Christ, the people wept and glorified the True God. The sorcerer Athanasias, falling down at the feet of Saint George, confessed Christ as the All-Powerful God and besought forgiveness of his sins, committed in ignorance. The obdurate emperor in his impiety thought otherwise: in a rage he commanded to be beheaded both the new-believer Athanasias and likewise the man resuscitated from the dead, and he had Saint George again locked up in prison.

The people, weighed down with their infirmities, began in various ways to penetrate the prison and they there received healings and help from the saint. There resorted to him also a certain farmer named Glycerios, whose ox had collapsed. The saint with a smile consoled him and assured him, that God would restore his ox to life. Seeing at home the ox alive, the farmer began to glorify the God of the Christians throughout all the city. By order of the emperor, Saint Glycerios was arrested and beheaded.

The exploits and the miracles of the GreatMartyr George had increased the number of the Christians, and therefore Diocletian decided to make a final attempt to compel the saint to offer sacrifice to the idols. They began to set up a court at the pagan temple of Apollo. On the final night the holy martyr prayed fervently, and when he dozed off, he beheld the Lord Himself, Who raised him up with His hand, and hugged him in giving him a kiss of greeting. The Saviour placed on the head of the GreatMartyr a crown and said: "Fear not, but rather make bold and be vouchsafed My Kingdom".

In the morning at the court the emperor offered Saint George a new test – he proposed to him to become his co-emperor. The holy martyr with a feigned willingness answered, that from the very beginning the emperor had seemed inclined not to torture him but rather shew mete mercy, and with this he expressed the wish to go forthwith into the pagan temple of Apollo. Diocletian decided, that the martyr was accepting his offer, and he followed after him into the pagan temple with his accompanying retinue and the people. Everyone waited, whether Saint George would offer sacrifice to the gods. He however, in going up to the idol, made the sign of the Cross and turned towards it, as though it were alive: "Thou wishest to receive from me sacrifice befitting God?" The demon inhabiting the idol cried out: "I am not God and none of those like me are God. The One-Only God is He Whom thou preachest. We are of those servant-angels of His, which became apostate, and in the grips of jealousy we do tempt people". "How dare ye to be here, when hither have come I, the servant of the True God?" – asked the saint. Then was heard a crash and wailing, and the idols fell down and were shattered.

There began a general confusion. In a frenzy pagan-priests and many of the throng pounced upon the holy martyr, they tied him up and began to beat him and demand his immediate execution.  Into the noise and the shouts rushed the holy empress Alexandra. Pushing her way through the crowd, she cried out: "Thou God of George, help me, in as Thou Alone art All-Powerful". At the feet of the GreatMartyr the holy empress glorified Christ, Who had humiliated the idols and those worshipping them.

Diocletian in a rage immediately pronounced the death sentence against the GreatMartyr George and the holy Empress Alexandra, who without being accompanied, followed Saint George to execution. Along the way she collapsed and slumped senseless against a wall. Everyone thought, that the empress was dead. Saint George offered up thanks to God and he prayed, that he should end his path worthily. At the place of execution the saint in heated prayer besought the Lord, that He would forgive the torturers that knew not what they did, and that He would lead them to the knowledge of Truth. Calmly and bravely, the holy GreatMartyr George bent his neck beneathe the sword. This occurred on 23 April 303.

 In confusion the executioners and the judges catch glimpse of their Conqueror. In a bloody agony and mindless thrashing about ended the era of paganism. It lasted for all of ten years more – up until the time of the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine, who was one of the successors to Diocletian upon the Roman throne, and who gave orders to imprint the Cross on his military-banners, as a testament also sealed by the blood of the GreatMartyr George and that of the blood of thousands of unknown martyrs: "By this sign thou wilt conquer".

Of the many miracles, worked by the holy GreatMartyr George, the most famous are depicted in iconography. In the native-region of the saint, at the city of Beirut, were many idol-worshippers. Outside the city, near Mount Lebanon, was situated a large lake, in which lived an enormous dragon-like serpent. Coming out of the lake, it devoured people, and there was nothing the people could do, since from one of its nostrils it infected the very air.

On the advice of the demons inhabiting the idols, the ruler there adopted this decision: each day the people would draw lots to give over as food their own children, and when the turn reached him, he promised to hand over his only daughter. That time indeed did come, and the ruler, having dressed her in her finest attire, sent her off to the lake. The girl wailed bitterly, awaiting the moment of death. Unexpectedly for her, the GreatMartyr George rode up on his horse and with spear in hand. The girl implored him not to leave her, lest she perish. But the saint, having caught sight of the serpent, signed himself with the Sign of the Cross and with the words "In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit", he rushed off after it. The GreatMartyr George pierced the throat of the serpent with his spear and trampled it with his horse. Then he bid the girl bind the serpent with her sash, and like a dog, lead it into the city. The people fled in terror, but the saint halted them with the words: "Be not afraid, but rather trust on the Lord Jesus Christ and believe in Him, since it be He Who hath sent me to you, to save you". Then the saint killed the serpent with a sword, and the people burned it outside the city. Twenty-five thousand men, not counting women and children, were then baptised, and there was later built a church in the name of the MostHoly Mother of God and the GreatMartyr George.

Saint George went on to become a talented military officer and to amaze the world by his military exploits. He died, when he was not even 30 years old. Hastening to unite with the Heavenly army, he entered into the history of the Church as the Victory-Bearer ("Pobedonosets"). With this title he was glorified in early Christianity and Holy Rus'.

Saint George the Victory-Bearer was the patron saint and protector of several of the great builders of the Russian state and Russian military might. The son of holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Vladimir, Yaroslav the Wise – in holy Baptism Georgii (+ 1054), much advanced the veneration of the saint in the Russian Church. He built the city of Yur'ev [i.e. "of Yurii" – "Yurii" being the diminutive of "Georgii", as "Ivan" is to "Ioann" (John)], he founded likewise the Yur'ev monastery at Novgorod, and he erected a church of Saint George the Victory-Bearer at Kiev. The day of the consecration of the Kiev Georgiev temple, done on 26 November 1051 by Sainted Ilarion, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus', entered forever into the liturgical treasury of the Church as a special churchly feastday – Yur'ev Day, beloved by the Russian people as an "Autumn Saint George's Day".

The name of Saint George was indeed also borne by the founder of Moscow – Yurii Dolgoruky (+ 1157), who was the builder of many a Georgiev church, and the builder of the city of Yur'ev-Pol'sk. In the year 1238 the heroic fight of the Russian nation against the Mongol Horde was headed by the Vladimir GreatPrince Yurii (Georgii) Vsevolodovich (+ 1238, Comm. 4 February), fallen into eternal rest in the Battle at the Sita River. His memory, just like that of Egor (Igor) the Brave, and defender of his native-land, was reflected in Russian spiritual versification and ballads. The first great-prince of Moscow, in the period when Moscow had become the centre of the gathering together of the Russian Land, was Yurii Danilovich (+ 1325) – son of Saint Daniel of Moscow, and grandson of Saint Alexander Nevsky. From that time Saint George the Victory-Bearer – the horseman, smiting the serpent – became the coat of arms of Moscow and emblem of the Russian state. And this has more deeply strengthened the connections with Christian peoples and especially with the same-believing Iveria (Gruzia, or Georgia – the Land of Saint George).

© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos


Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Monk Theodore Sikeotes, April 22, and a Eucharistic Miracle

Today we commemorate the life of a sixth century monk, born in the village of Sikea, not far from the city of Anastasiupolis (Asia Minor). The story of the monk St. Theodore begins early in his childhood with a holy call to a strict asceticism which he followed obediently, even at the risk of loosing his earthly life. This particular saint lived in the historical period that overlapped the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian recently discussed here and here

"...The Monk Theodore then fled human glory and he withdrew into complete solitude. Under a large boulder not far from the church of the GreatMartyr George, he dug out a cave and persuaded a certain deacon to cover over the entrance with ground, leaving only a small opening for air.  The deacon brought him bread and water and he told no one, where the monk had hidden himself. For two years the Monk Theodore lived in this seclusion and complete quiet. His kinsfolk bewept the saint and they thought, that he had been devoured by wild beasts.  But the deacon finally revealed the secret, since he was afraid that the Monk Theodore would perish in the narrow cave, and moreover he pitied the weeping mother. They plucked the Monk Theodore out of the cave half-alive."

So great was the sanctity of this monk's being that it is recorded that:

 "The sanctity of the monk was so evident, that during the time of his celebrating the Eucharist, the grace of the Holy Spirit, in a visage of radiant porphyry, overshadowed the Holy Gifts. One time, when the monk lifted the discus with the Divine Lamb and proclaimed "Holy Things unto the Holy", – the Divine Lamb raised itself up into the air, and then resettled itself again upon the discus.
      All the Orthodox Church venerated the Monk Theodore as a saint, even while he was yet alive."

The more complete hagiograpic record may be found here, translated by Father S. Janos. 

Over the years, I have been struck by the number of Orthodox clergy who have told me without malice of any kind that they are absolutely certain, and that Orthodoxy teaches, that Eucharistic miracles as recorded in the west are always demonic in origin.  

The miracle of Lanciano is one of the oldest, and certainly the most famous and well documented and scientifically tested of the Eucharistic miracles. This transformation of the Eucharist occurred in the year 700 which is well within the time period when the Church was one, and it happened to a monk of St. Basil's rule.

What follows is a story that is more compelling to me even than Lanciano, because it is more complex in its action and richer in its symbolism and happens to a young laywoman and her faithless husband.  It happens to a young woman who was about to step outside of her faith and trust to cultic sorcery to save her marriage.  Yet she was restrained by a miracle that essentially said to her,  'No.  Please.  Allow me to help instead.'

Do I personally trust that consecrated bread, now the body of Christ, bleeds and pulsates light, among other things?  I expect I might suspend disbelief for long enough to accept that there are those who do benefit from such divine action and those who need such signs and wonders to buttress their own lagging or lukewarm faith.  

Frankly I am more impressed that wild animals would come and take food from the hand of monk St. Theodore and that he loved the Lord enough to risk his life so as to take on severe ascetic action, as he was asked.   All works of wonder in one's life should be taken in thanksgiving with the starkness of absolute humility.  In that Light, there is nothing demonic that can ever overcome us.
 ~ ~ ~
 The Most Holy Eucharistic Miracle of Portugal 

In the village of Santarém Portugal, just a half hour drive from Fátima, there occurred the Church's second most famous Eucharistic Miracle after Lanciano. The miracle occurred on February 16th in the year 1247 when a woman married to a man who frequently committed adultery in desperation had turned to a Jewish Sorceress to seek a solution to her problem. The sorceress promised her a magical potion but demanded a Consecrated Host as payment. The woman did as she was instructed, and faked an illness in order to receive Holy Communion on a weekday since at that time Mass was only celebrated on Sunday. She went to the Parish Church of Saint Stephen, received communion and then as she was leaving the Church, removed the Host from her mouth and tied it in a knot in the veil covering her head. It was then that the Miracle occurred.

The Host suddenly began to bleed profusely. The blood flowed so heavily that it the people in the streets inquired about her sickness. Frightened, she ran home and placed the Host still wrapped in the veil in a wooden trunk where she kept her clean linens. Her husband discovered the secret when a miracle occurred that night: From the chest came a brilliant light that illuminated the entire house. The Host was freed from the Knot and elevated by angels who sang Divine Praises. The parish priest was called, and the pulsating Host was taken back in procession to the Church of Saint Stephen where the Clergy in order to stop the bleeding decided to seal it in a ball of melted bees wax.
Nineteen years passed and in 1266 when a canonical investigation was held, it was discovered that a second miracle had occurred. The Host had freed itself from the wax ball and was now in a little crystal ampoule.

Kings, Queens and Saints venerated the Relic of the Miraculous-bleeding Host with great splendor over the centuries and the object of national adoration. No fewer than half a dozen Popes granted indulgences to the Cult and Saint Francis Xavier came on pilgrimage before becoming the great apostle of India.

Miraculous phenomena occurred throughout the centuries involving the same Miraculous Host. Images were seen and new emissions of blood were common. All of this stopped however after the North American pilgrimages in the late 1950's began visiting the Shrine very frequently and abusively handling the Host. During this time the crystal ampoule was broken through the sacrilegious practice of the touching of rosaries and other religious items to It to take away as relics. By the 1970's half the glass of the ampoule had been broken off and the silver stopper removed, taken away as relics. The Host subsequently corrupted due to exposure to the air and today only particles of blood and solidified flesh are found clinging to the inside what remains of the glass ampoule.

The Relics were scientifically analyzed in 1997 for the 750th anniversary celebrations of the Miracle and proven to be genuine and of a supernatural origin. The relics of the Host and blood soaked wax were then sealed and placed in a bulletproof case atop the Eucharistic Throne above the main altar.  In 1997 the Church of Saint Stephen of the Holy Miracle was recognized as the Shrine of the Most Holy miracle.

(Based on"The Story and Relics of the Most Holy Miracle of Santarém" by Prof. Carlos Evaristo, Curator of the Museum of the Shrine of the Most Holy Miracle of Santarém. Photos Copyright: Carlos Evaristo 1997)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mother Maria Skobtsova

This quick post is primarily for the Catholics reading here who do not know this Russian saint, but really ought to get to know her:

On January 18, 2004, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul recognized Mother Maria Skobtsova as a saint along with her son Yuri, the priest who worked closely with her, Fr. Dimitri Klépinin, and her close friend and collaborator Ilya Fondaminsky. All four died in German concentration camps.




Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sainted Anastasias I the Sinaite, Patriarch of Antioch, April 20

There is a connection between this post and the earlier posting on Popes and Princes of Men here.  This is very important part of the history of Justinian's Imperial reign, since it is tempting in most secular histories to lionize Justinian as the great scourge of heretics, an assertion that does not hold up well under ecclesiastical scrutiny.

And also there is a connection between this particular time period of St. Anastasias the Sinaite and the Theopaschite Formula (5th Ecumenical Council) that will in part be the subject of the next post here at the Skete.

 From the Prologue of Ochrid:

While a monk on Mt. Sinai, Anastasius was elected patriarch of Antioch during the reign of Emperor Justinian. He was elevated to this rank by virtue of his charity, chaste life, great spiritual learning and a staunch faith. The Emperor Justinian fell into the heresy of Docetism [this heresy taught that Christ's sufferings were apparent and not real], which Eutychius the Patriarch of Constantinople and this Blessed Anastasius sharply rebelled against. The emperor banished Eutychius and also wanted to banish Anastasius but he was unable to find any reproach in his life. However, when Justinian died, repenting beforehand and re-instating Eutychius to the throne, then his successor Justin succeeded in banishing Anastasius on the basis of some spurious calumnies. Anastasius remained in exile for twenty-three years and was re-instated to the throne of Antioch during the reign of Maurice. He governed the Church of God for six years and ended his earthly sojourn in the year 599 A.D.

From the Menologion:

Sainted Anastasias I the Sinaite, Patriarch of Antioch, began his monastic deeds on Mount Sinai, wherefore he was called the Sinaite. He entered upon the Patriarchal throne in the year 562 during the reign of the emperor Justinian (527-565).

The Monophysite heresy was spreading about during this time. The emperor himself inclined towards the side of the heretics. Sainted Anastasias was outspoken against the heresy. He distributed a missive throughout all the churches and daily elucidated in his own temple the Orthodox teaching about the two natures of the Lord Jesus Christ. All those questioning or wavering in the faith awaited with hope the words of the holy Patriarch Anastasias.

Justinian, angering upon learning of this, wanted to depose Sainted Anastasias from the Antioch throne, but suddenly he became grievously ill. Before his death he made Church penance and composed the beautiful prayer "Only-begotten Son Word of God", which has entered into the order of the Divine Liturgy. In it he expressed the Orthodox teaching about the two natures of the Lord Jesus Christ.

After Justinian, there came upon the throne emperor Justin the Younger (565-578), who resumed the persecution against Sainted Anastasias and in 572 sent him into imprisonment. Returning from exile in 593, Sainted Anastasias governed the Church for six years and died peacefully (+ 21 April 599).

From the Prologue of Ochrid

While a monk on Mt. Sinai, Anastasius was elected patriarch of Antioch during the reign of Emperor Justinian. He was elevated to this rank by virtue of his charity, chaste life, great spiritual learning and a staunch faith. The Emperor Justinian fell into the heresy of Docetism [this heresy taught that Christ's sufferings were apparent and not real], which Eutychius the Patriarch of Constantinople and this Blessed Anastasius sharply rebelled against. The emperor banished Eutychius and also wanted to banish Anastasius but he was unable to find any reproach in his life. However, when Justinian died, repenting beforehand and re-instating Eutychius to the throne, then his successor Justin succeeded in banishing Anastasius on the basis of some spurious calumnies. Anastasius remained in exile for twenty-three years and was re-instated to the throne of Antioch during the reign of Maurice. He governed the Church of God for six years and ended his earthly sojourn in the year 599 A.D.

In exile, Saint Anastasias wrote several dogmatic and moral works, and even rendered into the Greek language the work of Sainted Gregory Dialogus (+ 604, Comm. 12 March) "About Pastoral Service".

Troparion of St Athanasios    Tone 3

Thou art a pillar, a wall, a battlement/ and a shelter for thy flock,/ O holy and glorious Athanasios./ Protect with the wings of thy prayers/ those who lovingly praise thee.
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