And You, in whom people believe…where are You ?

Around the year 2003, while waiting in Uranopolis to buy a ticket for the ship, a young man between 27 and 30 years old came to me and asked me something. I answered and as it usually happens, we started talking…If wind would let us get into Athos…where we were going each one of us and all the other stuff.

We continued our talk on the ship and we began to approach much deeper topics. I was telling him that I had three years since I had returned to the Church and I had started from scratch. Then he told me the story of his life.

”I was a Satanist…deeply immersed in the Satanist practices…We were making rituals…in some underground where were performed orgies above the Orthodox icons… We were doing things that cannot be described in the Passion Week, even near churches. I began to be very initiated in such practices…After some time I locked myself up in the house, shot down by depression and having suicide attempts. I didn’t even pull up the shutters so as not to let the light get in…I heard inside myself urges like: <Throw yourself down! End up your life to calm yourself down…What’s the use of living more?> And other similar thoughts. One day I decided to end it up… I couldn’t bear it anymore…I went out on the balcony and wanted to throw myself down…I was full of anger and revolt…Then I shouted out loudly: <And You, in whom people believe and about whom they talk…where are You? Ultimately You are nowhere to be found…>

In that moment I felt an indescribable inner peace…And everything around me was nice and pleasant… I was so strongly feeling a presence…But I did not see, nor hear anything. I fell down not knowing why and cried for long hours…When I could get up again and went out everything had already changed inside and outside myself. I retrieved myself…My steps were directed towards the Holy Mountain, to the Filotheu Monastery. Since then I’ve got as spiritual confessor one of the priest from the monastery. I also found a good girl and got married…I found a job as well…God be glorified that I’m fine!”

Ilie Daslis

Source : http://synaxipalaiochoriou.blogspot.gr/2016/blog-post 52.html

An American general was baptized Orthodox after he stayed for several years in Moldavia. The chief of the European Regional Medical Command of NATO says that the Mother of God spoke to him

An American general on mission in Basarabia fell in love with the Moldavian style of life and was baptized Orthodox.

Norvel Coots is the chief of the  European Regional Medical Command of NATO and has the rank of brigadier general of the US army. Arrived in Chisinau, the American was deeply touched by the thousands of institutionalized children and the difficult conditions in which they lived daily. In 2000 he started a project for aiding them, project that is carried on even today.

”I saw orphanages that worked according to the Russian system from the former Soviet Union, they were huge, without any electricity or water supply. Practically just a place where to stay over night. Though the children had food and education, they equally needed care, affection and other basic things for living better.”

”The wish to help those children become responsible adults and live a normal life came in an instant in 1999 but the effective charity activity started one year after, in 2000”, he said in an interview for Romania Libera.

General Coots benefits of support from the Orthodox Church of Moldavia, under the rule of his eminence Vladimir of Chisinau. The American says that the money came through donations, through the Orthodox Church but also from his own pocket.

His experience in the country over Prut made him change his life. He was baptized Orthodox and says that he heard the Mother of God telling him to help the children from Moldavia.

”I became Orthodox Christian, my children have Moldavian names, Maximilian and Catalina. I became Orthodox for supporting the project, when I went for the second time in Moldavia, I visited an old monastery from Orhei and then I heard Virgin Mary speaking to me and telling me that I must help those children I had seen. I already live and feel like a Moldavian, I am an active member of that society and together with the Orthodox Church from there and with the metropolitan Vladimir wish to develop many projects. I am a Moldavian Orthodox Christian and though I was baptized in the Russian rite, I feel that I am Romanian and Russian Orthodox in the same time!”, he said.

As for the unification of Basarabia and Romania, the American general says that the Moldavian society is divided.

About a third of the population militates for a reunification of Moldavia with Romania, another third is nostalgic after USSR and would like to have a strategic partnership with Russia and there is one more third that doesn’t care of anything.

”Ten years ago I felt there was a strong unionist trend, with public demonstrations pro Romania but which did not materialize and decreased in intensity”, Norvel Coots declared.

Source: activenews.ro

How can I find God ?

A ”starets” was asked by a young man:

”How can I find God? By fasting, by ascetical struggles, vigils or alms?”

”There were many who, as you say, exhausted their body but without discernment and therefore they remained hollow, fruitless. It may be possible to have a mouth full of sourness because of severe fasting, to learn the Scripture by heart, to read the entire Psalter but to lack all the other things God requires from us, namely the fear of God, love and humility.”

Why do we honor the holy relics?

We believe that the body of the man who enters the Church becomes a vessel of the uncreated divine energy, bearer of Christ and bearer of holy spirit: ”Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?…Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own. Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God’s.” (I Corinthians 6, 15-20) ”May God himself, the God of peace sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless till the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.” (I Thessalonians 5, 23-24)

Human body is raised in the Church and has an eternal purpose. Meaning that Christ will transform, will change our humble body so that it will become like the body of His glory in order to receive the same shape with Christ’s glorified body. And this will happen at His Second Coming ”by the power that enables Him to subject all things unto Himself.” (Philip 3, 21)

The veneration of the holy relics represents the prefiguration of this new and glorious body state. The honor that is given to them in the Orthodox Church means as well the testimony of our faith in the synodial glory of man (I Thessalonians 5, 23-24)

The sanctifying grace manifests in the holy relics by the fragrance mentioned in the Holy Scripture ( II Corinthians 2, 15,  Isaiah 66, 14) and accomplishes miracles (IV Kings 13, 20-21) The same grace is transmitted to the objects that come in contact with the bodies of the saints, these accomplishing miracles as well (IV Kings 2, 8-14) Matthew 9, 20-22, Marcus 6, 13, the Act 19, 12).Because we descend from Adam, we are not in harmony with God’s creation (Genesis 3, 17-19) but the man of God’s grace spreads peace and blessing even by his shadow (Acts 5, 15-16).

Thus, God himself honors the saints’relics and permeates them with His divine uncreated grace.

That is why the Orthodox Church honors them and places them under the holy altar (Hebr. 13,10) prefiguring by this the heavenly altar not made by hands (Apocalypse 6,9) for our altars are symbols of the true ones, namely of the heavenly altar (Hebr.9, 24)

The early church honored the holy relics. Saint Polycarp’s martyrdom (+156) tells us that they were considered ”more valuable than the most precious stones and finer than the most refined gold” (Polycarp’s martyrdom, 18). Christians gathered at martyrs’tombs for celebrating the Divine Eucharist and the commemoration of saints.

These were transmitted to the following generations and there is no information to tell us that the veneration of the holy relics would not be accepted in assembly.

Saint Gregory the Theologian (329-390) mentions the numerous wonders accomplished by the holy relics of Saint Cyprian ”when there is faith”. And adds that ”this is known by all those who experienced it and transmitted it to us and we will transmit it to the next generations” (The Word 24,18 at St.Cyprian)

In the first accusatory word against Julian, st.Gregory says about the saints:

”These deserve great honors and celebrations. They chase away demons and heal diseases…Their bodies alone have the same power with that of their souls, if touched or just honored. Their drops of blood and the small objects of their martyrdoms act just like their bodies.” (St. Gregory the Theologian, Word 4,69) St. John Chrysostom says that ”even the emperor clothed in purple hastes to worship the saints’tombs and prays to them so that they would  intercede for him before God.” (St.John Chrysostom, Comment at II Corinthians, Word 26,5).

The same saint expressing the faith of the Church urges: ”visit the resting places of the martyrs where you will find healing for body and avail for soul.” (Comment at Matthew, Word 37,7) In another homily he urges the Christians to go to churches and to the reliquaries of the saint martyrs so that after receiving their blessing to become invincible againts the devil’s wiles (Genesis, homily 15, 6) ”The bones of the saints subdue and torment the demons and free those who were tied with those painful ties.” (Comment at II Corinthians, Word 26,5)

According to the faith of the early church, divine grace is transmitted to anyone who gets in contact with the saints. Even the clothes of the saints are honored in all creation st.John Chrysostom says and recalls st. Elijah’s sheepskin coat (IV Kings 2, 8-14), the clothes of the three young men who overcame the fire (Daniel 3, 27-28) , the rod of Moses that accomplished so many miracles, st.Paul’s clothes (Acts 19, 11-12), st.Peter’s shadow (Acts 5, 12-16) and others (St.John Chrysostom, At statues, homily 8,2)

St. Basil tells us that the veneration of st.Judith’s relics sanctifies the city and all those who enter the church.

The earth that by the burial of the saint received blessings springs holy water which is for the healthy ones guarding and bearing myrth and for the sick ones is solace (St. Basil the Great, homily 2 about St.martyr Judith, 2)

In the Orthodox Church we honor the holy relics but this as we have proved it does not mean idolatry or pagan adoration. Because an Orthodox Christian has never considered the holy relics ”as gods.”

Priest Anthony Alevizopoulos, Textbook of heretical and sectarian groups, Athens 1994

The analysis of the elaborated ecumenist document for the upcoming Holy Great Council (2016): “THE RELATIONS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH WITH THE REST OF THE CHRISTIAN WORLD”

ARISTOTEL UNIVERSITY OF THESSALONIKI

FACULTY OF THEOLOGY

THEOLOGY DEPARTMENT

DOGMATIC THEOLOGY SECTION

PROFESSOR: DIMITRIOS I. TSELENGHIDIS

To his Eminence VLADIMIR OF CHISINAU AND MOLDAVIA, Metropolitan of Chisinau and entire Moldavia, permanent member of the Permanent Council of the Church of Russia.

          Your Emminence1,

          Regarding the summoning of the Holy Council of the Russian Church, I would piously like to draw your attention to some suggestions and theological observations referring to the already published texts of the Pre-Synodal Pan-orthodox Conference V that you will soon approach to decide on them on a synodal level.

My theological remarks focus on the text entitled:

“THE RELATIONS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH WITH THE REST OF THE CHRISTIAN WORLD”

          The aforementioned text reveals an entire chain of inconsistencies and even theological contradictions. Thus, article 1 proclaims the consciousness of the Orthodox Church, considering it – verily – “The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”. However, article 6 includes a formulation that thwarts with the aforementioned article (1). It is mentioned therein “the Orthodox Church acknowledges the historical existence of other Churches and Christian Confessions that are not in communion with it”.

          Here we raise the following very entitled theological question: If the Church is “ONE”, according to the Symbol of Confession and the consciousness of Orthodox Church (Art 1), how come then it refers to other Christian Churches? It is obvious that these Churches are the heterodox ones.

          However, at no point the heterodox “Churches” are entitled to be called “Churches” by the Orthodox because if we approach the thing on a dogmatic viewpoint, it will not be possible to talk about a pluralism of “Churches” that have different dogmas, meaning in many dogmatic aspects. Thereby, as long as these “Churches” stay unchanged in the heresies of their faith, it is wrong to acknowledge them from a theological viewpoint – on an institutional level – the character of Church as long as they are not part of the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”.

          In the same article (6) there is another serious theological contradiction. At the beginning of this article the following statement was made: “The unity by whom the Church is distinguished in her ontological nature is impossible to shatter”, however at the end of same article is stated that the Orthodox Church, through its participation to the Ecumenical Movement, “pursues an objective goal – to tread the path to unity.”

          Hence, we rise the question: As long as the unity of Church is a fact, then what kind of unity is pursued through the Ecumenical Movement?” Could it refer to the return of western Christians to the ONE and only Church? Yet this conclusion is unlikely to understand from the wording and spirit of the text in its entirety. On the contrary, it gives the impression that the schism from the bosom of the Church is a fact and the perspectives of the participants to dialogue focus exactly on the fragmented unity of Church.

          Through its ambiguity, article 20 from the text as well leads to a theological clutter as it states: “The prospects for conducting theological dialogues between the Orthodox Church and other Christian Churches and confessions shall always be derived from the canonical criteria of the established Church Tradition (canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council and canon 95 of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council).”

          However, the canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council and canon 95 of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council tell about the acknowledgement of the Baptism2 of some heretics, who express their wish to become part of the Church. Nevertheless, the wording and spirit of the text, judged from a theological viewpoint, shows that by no means is mentioned the return of the heterodox to The One Church, the Orthodox Church. On the contrary, the validity of the Baptism of heterodox is considered from the very beginning to be a matter of course – even without a pan-orthodox decision on this matter. In other words, the text legitimates the “baptismal theology”. In the same time, it is deliberately ignored that the contemporary heterodox from West (Roman-Catholics and Protestants) have not only one but a multitude of dogmas that separate them from the Orthodox Faith (besides Filioque, the created grace of Sacraments, primacy, infallibility, disclaim of icons and decisions of Ecumenical Synods, etc.)

          Article 21 as well raises some legitimate question marks, stating that “the Church has a favorable view on the theological documents adopted by the Commission (meaning the “Faith and Order” Committee)… regarding the approaching way of the Churches.” We have to point out here that these texts were not debated by the Synods of Local Orthodox Churches. Eventually, article 22 suggests that the upcoming Holy Great Council relies on the premise of infallibility regarding its decisions as it considers that “the preservation of the true Orthodox faith is only possible thanks to the conciliar structure which since ancient times has been for the Church the strong and final criterion in matters of faith”. This article overlooks the historical fact that in the Orthodox Church the decisive factor is represented by the dogmatic vigilant consciousness of the pleroma of the Church that in the past happened to validate or even judge as thievish some councils considered to be ecumenical. The synodal system by itself does not automatically ensure the correctness of the orthodox faith. This thing happens only when the synodal bishops have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them as well as the Hypostatic Path, meaning Jesus Christ so that the synodal participants are “successors of the Holy Fathers” in fact.

GENERAL EVALUATION OF THE TEXT

          It is obvious that the official texts and their suggestions clearly prove that the authors and their inspiring sources pursue a institutional legitimization of syncretism and Christian ecumenism through a pan-orthodox synodal decision. This act can however be catastrophic for the Orthodox Church. Thereby I humbly propose its total cancellation.

          One more theological observation regarding the text “THE SACRAMENT OF MARRIAGE AND ITS IMPEDIMENTS” In article 5 is mentioned: “The marriage of an Orthodox Christian with a non-Orthodox Christian is forbidden in accordance with the canonical acrivia and is not celebrated in the Church (Canon 72 of the Council of Trullo). It can be blessed out of indulgence and love of man if the children from this marriage are to be baptized and raised in the Orthodox Church”.

          Hereby, the clear condition that “the children from this marriage are to be baptized and raised in the Orthodox Church” is in contradiction with the theological validation of Marriage as Sacrament of the Orthodox Church and this is due to the children resulted from the marriage – regarding the baptism of children in the Orthodox Church – a fact that might approve the sacredness of mixed marriages, a clearly forbidden act by some canons of the Ecumenical Synods (72 from the Quinisext Ecumenical Council). In other words, a non-ecumenical Council, as the upcoming Holy and Great Synod is, relativizes a clear decision of an Ecumenical Synod, an unacceptable fact.

          And one more thing, if no children result from the mixed marriage ministered in the Orthodox Church, would the marriage be theologically validated in the virtue of the non-orthodox spouse’s intention to have his possible resulted children, integrated in the Orthodox Church?

          Therefore, from the theological viewpoint, paragraph 5 needs to be obliterated.

          Dimitrios Tselenghidis,

          Professor of Aristotel University from Thessaloniki

1I wrote this answer on the request of the Movement of Orthodox Jurists from the Republic of Moldavia, as organizers of the International Orthodox Theological Conference “Inter-religious syncretism” that approached the issue of the Holy Great Council having the blessing of His Eminence Vladimir, Metropolitan of Chisinau and entire Moldavia, in Chisinau, 21st-22nd of January 2016

2It institutionalizes the transformation of oikonomia into a dogma. According to the Orthodox teaching, oikonomia is a temporary deviation from acrivia and canon of faith due to human weakness, in exceptional cases, focusing on the return of people to the right faith, in spite of objective impediments.

 

Why only the Orthodox psalmodies can raise you to heaven?

The Byzantine music heals depression. It’s the music of the Church, the music of angels. The distressed soul is healed and sanctified by this.

The Church Fathers frequently emphasize in their texts the role of the Church music in the formation and cultivation of the Christian morality and exhort the Christians to praise God by means of music.

For the Holy Fathers music is a means for relieving passions, purifying souls and spiritual rejoicing.

Saint Basil the Great writes: ”Psalmody appeases souls, brings peace, stops the disturbance caused by the flood of thoughts.”

Great Athanasios also writes: ”By psalmody all the disturbance, wildness and disorder  dwelling in the soul calm down and the sorrow gets healed.”

And saint John Chrysostom says that by psalmody even the air gets sanctified. ”The mind hears the voice and changes, the chant gets in and chases away passions.”

Why do we light candles before the holy icons?

When you pray, the triune God watches you with eyes brighter and shinier than the sun!

Why do I offer material light (candles, lamps) to God or to the Mother of God or to an angel or saint? Saint John of Kronstadt wrote:”I offer material light (candles, lamps) to God, to the Mother of God, to an angel or saint so that they would give me with their prayers the light of the divine grace, the spiritual light, so that they would guide me far from the darkness of sin, in the light of the knowledge of God and virtues. I offer material light so that they would light in my heart the fire of the grace of the Holy Spirit and quench from my wretched heart the fire of passions.”

I offer light with the desire to become light myself, so as to warm and lighten all those who are in the church. This is why I light candles in front of the holy icons. These are my thoughts when I light candles and put them in the candlestick.

I confess that I put candles in front of the icons with the hope that I would receive the spiritual blessing from the saints painted on them. I confess my wish for a spiritual benefit. There is the law of reward, that of waiting gift for gift. ”With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you”1, the Lord said.

Likewise when you pray alone and your loneliness grieves you and disheartens you, you should know that the triune God watches you with eyes brighter and shinier than the sun! And your guardian angel, all the angels and saints of God do the same. You should firmly believe this. For they are all united with God. Where is God, they are with Him. Where is the sun, there are the rays.”

1 Matthew 7,2

Theotokos appeared to the president Assad in the Monastery of Saidnaya

It was one evening at the Theotokos monastery of Saidnaya, from the Kalamun Mountain in Syria.

The gates of the monastery had already been closed. An unexpected visitor knocked insistently at the gate. The nun whose duty was to stay at the gate of the monastery opened it, but not before finding out who was there. And it was indeed the president Bashar al Assad. The nuns got stunned by his unexpected and impressive presence. He greeted them respectfully and told them he had come to worship God. He only asked them to leave him alone in the church so as to pray to Theotokos undisturbed. For this reason he persistently asked them to let him be completely alone in the church. Then the nuns felt an unprecedented thrill. They assured him they would take care that his request would be fulfilled.

The president entered the church piously. The door was tightly closed after him. There, in the dim light of the church, he prayed to Theotokos…After a while the president got out of the church. He expressed his full satisfaction but told them that they did not keep their word. ” I asked you let me be alone in the church. Who was then that woman with the baby in her arms, who stayed with me in the church?” The nuns said that no woman entered the church, just as they promised. But that Lady he had seen could not have been anyone else but the Mother of God. The emotion all of them felt was extremely high…This happened during the war from Syria with so many victims.

”My children mustn’t experience the hardships I’ve been through”

 An American journalist and writer, Jim Bishop, wrote: Once I asked a psychiatrist what he considered to be the worst mistake parents make. He answered that the worst mistake most of them make is to say: ”My children mustn’t experience the hardships I’ve been through.”

”Why would this be a mistake?” I asked him. His answer is noteworthy: ”What makes you be the human you are – if you’re really human – is exactly the fact that you have encountered difficulties, that you had to overcome difficult situations, that sometimes many things were against you, that it was important to climb up, to sneak around, to crawl, for reaching the top.”

”A soul that didn’t experience any pains is of no use. (Saint Teophanus) Priest Anthony Coniaris

Source: ganduridinierusalim.com

The brick

A young man who held an important position in his company, was driving his new Jaguar with enough speed, in an area that did not have such a good fame.

He was extremely careful lest any child would come out all of a sudden in front of him from the parked cars. At a certain moment, thinking that he saw something moving, slowed down. But instead of seeing any child, a brick seriously hit the side door of his Jaguar. He braked abruptly and moving back, headed for that direction from where the brick had been thrown.

Obviously annoyed, he jumped out of his car and caught a kid who was nearby. He shoved him and thrusted him with his back on a parked car then yelled at him:

”Why did you do that? And who are you? Who the hell do you think you are? This is a brand new car and the brick you threw in it damaged it seriously. Why did you do it?”

The boy, for defending himself, said:

”Please, sir, please, forgive me, but I didnt know what else to do…I threw the brick cause nobody stopped.”

With tears flowing over his cheeks, the kid showed him a place behind  a parked car.

”He is my brother. His wheelchair toppled over on the sidewalk and he fell out of it. But I cannot lift him up.”

The boy asked the young man:

”Could you help me please to put him back in his wheelchair? He is wounded and is too heavy for me to lift him up.”

The driver stood as thunder-struck…He tried to come to his senses then quickly lifted the disabled boy, installing him back in his wheelchair. Afterwards he took a paper tissue and cleaned the boy’s wounds. He realized at a glance that the wounds were superficial and would heal in no time.

”Thank you!…God bless you!” the little boy said gratefully to that stranger. The driver, distressed, looked at the kid who was pushing  his brother’s wheelchair on the sidewalk, going home.

He returned to his Jaguar after quite a while. The damage caused to the car was not at all negligible, but the young man has never taken it to the car service. He purposefully left it as it was in order to remind him the following mesage:

”Don’t live your life at such speed so that to force the other to throw you a brick for drawing your attention.

God whispers into our souls and speaks to our hearts. Sometimes, when we don’t have time to listen to Him, He throws us a brick…

Then it’s up to us if we are willing to listen or not…