Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hieromartyr Gregory the Bishop of Greater Armenia, Equal of the Apostles and Enlightener of Armenia

Commemorated on September 30

The Hieromartyr Gregory, Enlightener of Great Armenia, was born in the year 257. He was descended from the line of the Parthian Arsakid emperors. The father of St Gregory, Anak, in striving after the Armenian throne, had murdered his kinsman, the emperor Kursar, in consequence of which all the line of Anak was marked for destruction.

A certain kinsman saved Gregory: he carried off the infant from Armenia to Caesarea Cappadocia and raised him in the Christian Faith. At maturity, Gregory married, had two sons, but soon was left a widower. Gregory raised his sons in piety. One of them -- Orthanes, afterwards became a priest, and the other -- Arostanes, accepted monasticism and went off into the wilderness.

In order to atone for the sin of his father, who had murdered the father of Tiridates, Gregory entered into the service of the latter and was a faithful servant to him. Tiridates loved Gregory like a friend, but he was intolerant of the Christian confession of faith. After ascending the Armenian throne, he began to demand that St Gregory renounce the Christian Faith.

The steadfastness of the saint embittered Tiridates, and he gave his faithful servant over to cruel tortures: they suspended the sufferer head downwards with a stone about his neck, for several days they choked him with a stinking smoke, they beat and ridiculed him, and forced him to walk in iron sandals inset with nails.

At the time of these sufferings St Gregory sang Psalms. In prison the Lord healed all his wounds. When Gregory again stood before the emperor cheerful and unharmed, he was astonished and gave orders to repeat the torments. St Gregory endured them, not wavering, with all his former determination and bearing. They then poured hot tin over him and threw him into a pit filled with vipers. The Lord, however, saved His chosen one: the snakes did him no harm.

Some pious women fed him with bread, secretly lowering it into the pit. A holy angel, appeared to the martyr, strengthening and encouraging him. St Gregory remained in the pit for fourteen years. During this time the emperor Tiridates executed the holy virgin St Rhipsime, the aged abbess Gaiana and another 35 virgins from one of the monasteries of Asia Minor. As punishment for this horrible deed, the king's face became disfigured.

St Gregory was released from the pit, and buried the relics of the holy virgins with honor. Then he began to preach to the people, urging them to turn away from the darkness of idolatry and toward Christ. The people came to believe in Christ, and wished to build a large church. When it was completed, St Gregory had the relics of the holy nuns brought into it. Then he brought King Tiridates there before the bodies of the saints whom he had slain. He repented, and immediately his face was made whole once more.

Soon all of Armenia was converted to Christ. The temples of the idols were destroyed, and churches for the worship of the true God were built. St Gregory ordained priests, established schools, founded monasteries, and provided for the good order of the Church.

St Gregory went into the wilderness, where he departed to the Lord. His son Aristanes was made a bishop in Cappadocia, and was one of the 318 holy Fathers at the Council of Nicea.

Troparion - Tone 4
By sharing in the ways of the Apostles,you became a successor to their throne.Through the practice of virtue, you found the way to divine contemplation, O inspired one of God;by teaching the word of truth without error, you defended the Faith, even to the shedding of your blood.Hieromartyr Gregory entreat Christ God to save our souls.

Kontakion - Tone 2
Today, let us the faithful, praise with songs and hymnsthe admirable hierarch Gregory as an initiate in the sacred mysteries.He was a contender for the truth, a vigilant pastor and teacher,a light for the whole world,interceding with Christ that our souls may be saved!


Christ is in our Midst LXI(letter 93)

" 93

11 November 1954

. . . Oh, how foolish you are! You write to me that you ' do not believe in God or his holy Providence or in the existence of demons'. Are you really so spiritually blind that you do not see in creation the Creator - Almighty God! Everything is so marvellously made and each thing is regulated by its own law, unchanging from age to age. I remember having written to you about God and his works.

About the existence of demons, I will tell you briefly my own experience. I was living alone in a little hut in the skete of the Forerunner28 at Valamo. I prepared my own food; I grew vegetables, but I brought bread from the monastery or once in a while did my own baking. I liked to spend the nights awake. I always lay down after twelve for two or three hours. Of course I slept in the daytime as much as nature required. Once at two o'clock in the morning I was heating the little samovar and instead of supper I was about to drink tea. Suddenly I heard someone walking in the hall; human footsteps could be heard clearly. I remembered well that the doors were locked. My flesh was creeping, and the cat arched its back and its fur stood on end just as if it expected someone to open the door and come in. I took a lamp, went out to the hall, looked everywhere, and there was no one. Of course an unbeliever would say that it was a hallucination. No, it was no hallucination, but demons. Sometimes I heard knockings on the window-frame when I was reading my rule of prayer, and there were other knockings, but I will not describe them all.

Here is some more evidence of the existence of demons, of which the Gospel speaks too. I had a brother living in Petrograd. He kept an eating-house which did a thriving business and I was living in the same city at the time at the Valamo monastery house. Once my brother came to see me. When he came into the cell, for some reason he began to get very agitated. I seated him on a chair, and above it were icons with relics. Suddenly my brother jumped up from the chair and cried: 'Vile, vile icons!' and ran out of the cell. I was left at a loss, wondering what had happened to him. Could he possibly be possessed? It turned out that he really was possessed. The following day I went to see him and his wife said to me: 'When he came home he was very disturbed and began to shout: "I shall never again go to my brother's; he has vile icons there." And when I say anything from the Holy Gospel he gets nervous and says, "Don't say that to me." If the food is sprinkled with holy water he won't eat it, even if he hasn't seen that it was sprinkled.' I had to go to the monastery to be consecrated a monk. I arrived at the monastery and asked the Igumen to remember sick John in the liturgy - he too was called John; I also asked some schema-monks to pray for him.

The sacrament took place and I was tonsured. I went back to the seditious world. I took with me a basket of strawberries from the monastery garden and sprinkled them with holy water, thinking to give my brother monastery berries as a treat. I arrived in town, took the berries and went to give them to my brother. I watched; he ate and thanked me for the good berries. Then he said to me: 'When you had left for the monastery, in the night I had just begun to fall asleep when suddenly I saw very clearly two schema-monks coming towards me and saying to me kindly: "Do not be sad, do not be sad, you will get well," and they left me. I was all right immediately.' Then he said: 'Bad people had corrupted me out of envy.'

I shall never forget that happening. I believe in God and in his power and in his marvellous creation. Wherever I look, everything amazes me and I feel his creative care for the destinies of the world and man.

How is it that you atheists cannot recognize God the Creator when you look at all this wonderful creation? The Lord in his grace marvellously created everything, He gave each thing its appointed law and upholds the order of his world until his Second Coming. Then this marvellous world will be done away with and there will be eternal life which has no end.

28 John the Baptist "

Ukraine vote fuels religious tensions

Battle lines are drawn
between pro-Moscow camp, Kyiv nationalists

Sep 29, 2007 04:30 AM

Mitch Potter

KYIV–Religion may seem well beneath the radar this time around, but followers of Eastern European politics say a festering spiritual Cold War remains a significant factor as Ukraine goes to the polls this weekend.

Schisms older than Ukraine itself permeate the country's multi-confessional religious jumble, each fault line a legacy of the former empires that once jockeyed for control of its rich black-soil steppes.

Now, fears of new empire-building run through the dominant Eastern Orthodox Christian faithful, where the battle lines between pro-Russian loyalists and Western-leaning Ukrainian nationalists can be found parish by parish.

Though almost identical in terms of liturgy, the two Orthodox streams answer to decidedly different masters, with the Ukrainian branch of the Russian Orthodox Church and its more than 9,000 communities under the canonical authority of leaders in Moscow. The rival Ukrainian Orthodox Church, by contrast, answers to its own self-declared Kyiv Patriarchate, a breakaway entity created in June 1992 upon the collapse of the Soviet Union and consisting today of nearly 3,000 communities.

Many Moscow church loyalists see the dreaded hand of Western imperialism in the growth of the Kyiv camp, whose expansion accounts for a corresponding shrinkage in the power and influence of the Russian Patriarchate. They argue passionately for Moscow as the natural centre of gravity for Eastern Slavs, which they characterize as Christian Ukrainians, Russians and Belarussians.

Conversely, many Kyiv church loyalists fear Russian empire-building lies behind the staunch resistance of the Moscow Patriarchate to allow Ukraine the spiritual independence to match its political independence. They point to the tightening bonds between the Russian Orthodox Church and President Vladimir Putin's Kremlin as evidence that the dream of Moscow as "a third Rome" is awakening again.

The religious revival is based on the concept that Moscow is the successor to Rome and Constantinople as the last bastion of Christian civilization.)

"Unfortunately, Moscow has not forsaken the idea of `the third Rome' and recently these ideas have been activated," said Father Konstantin Lozinsky, a scholar loyal to the Kyiv Patriarchate at St. Michael's Cathedral in Kyiv.

Lozinsky said the natural trajectory of Ukrainian independence suggests that eventually the church will unite under a framework independent from Moscow.

It is "fear of the inevitable," he said, that is driving Moscow church loyalists to extremes.

"The fight for Kyiv has some political underpinnings and levers are being used," Lozinsky said. "If the Ukrainian Orthodox unites under one church it will be the largest Orthodox Church in the world. And that means the dream of Moscow as a third Rome will fail. When this happens, Moscow will lose 500 years of its history."

Father Olek Sircee, a Moscow Patriarchate priest from Ukraine's Ternopil province, rejected such predictions. For the past two years Sircee has been encamped at a protest site in the Ukrainian capital with a small band of like-minded followers who accuse the Kyiv church of forcing him out of his parish in Ternopil against the wishes of his parishioners.

"We put our faith in God that justice will prevail," said Sircee. "There is a natural connection between all Slavic peoples. We must be confident that this holy land will unite as a Slavic brotherhood under God."

Such Orthodox tensions are nothing new. But they metastasized three years ago during the run-up to the Orange revolution, when Ukraine's religious camps brazenly abandoned neutrality to take an active role in partisan politics. For the pro-Moscow camp, presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko became "the enemy of Orthodoxy." The Kyiv camp, meanwhile, found common cause with many Ukrainian Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic minorities in backing Yushchenko's Orange coalition, drawn by the promise of closer ties with Europe – and by extension, greater distance from Russia.

Now, as Ukraine readies to vote tomorrow in what counts as the fourth national election in three years, Orange fatigue is biting deep into the dispirited electorate. Voters once again find themselves choosing among the very same candidates who failed to deliver the change promised in 2004.

A statement published earlier this month by the Orthodox Choice Association cautioned voters that an Orange victory will bring reprisals for the pro-Moscow church.

"The question stands this way," it read. "Are we to cast our votes in support of those who will assist the canonical Orthodox church or are we to vote for those who will destroy it?"

Western diplomats and political analysts in Kyiv say the Orthodox tensions provide Russia's leadership with another handy lever over Ukrainian affairs.

"Think of it as spiritual Gazprom," said one Kyiv-based Western diplomat. "Just as Ukraine is dependent on Russian gas, which Moscow has shown can be switched on or off at will, Ukraine is also susceptible to Russian church influence.

"Does that extend to actually telling parishioners how they should vote? It has been known to happen. But the majority of the election problems involve issues other than religion."

Kost Bondarenko, chief political analyst with the Horshenin Institute of Management, places the Orthodox religious schism in the context of all the other links binding Ukraine to Russia. Even 16 years after independence, he notes, the dominant language of Kyiv remains Russian, while Russian television, music and literature flows freely – and is consumed in enormous volumes – throughout Ukraine.

"All these are levers for Putin's Russia – the levers of energy, economics, culture and, yes, religion," said Bondarenko.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Venerable Cyriacus the Hermit of Palestine

Commemorated on September 29

Saint Cyriacus was born at Corinth to the priest John and his wife Eudokia. Bishop Peter of Corinth, who was a relative, seeing that Cyriacus was growing up as a quiet and sensible child, made him a reader in church. Constant reading of the Holy Scriptures awakened in him a love for the Lord and of a yearning for a pure and saintly life.

Once, when the youth was not yet eighteen years old, he was deeply moved during a church service by the words of the Gospel: "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me" (Mt.16:24). He believed these words applied to him, so he went right to the harbor without stopping at home, got onto a ship and went to Jerusalem.

After visiting the holy places, Cyriacus dwelt for several months at a monastery not far from Sion in obedience to the igumen Abba Eustorgius. With his blessing, he made his way to the wilderness Lavra of St Euthymius the Great (January 20). St Euthymius, discerning in the youth great gifts of God, tonsured him into the monastic schema and placed him under the guidance of St Gerasimus (March 4), pursuing asceticism at the Jordan in the monastery of St Theoctistus.

St Gerasimus, seeing the youthfulness of Cyriacus, ordered him to live in the community with the brethren. The young monk easily accomplished the monastic obediences: he prayed fervently, he slept little, he ate food only every other day, nourishing himself with bread and water.

During Great Lent it was the custom of St Gerasimus to go into the Rouva wilderness, returning to the monastery only on Palm Sunday. Seeing Cyriacus' strict abstinence, he decided to take him with him. In complete solitude the ascetics redoubled their efforts. Each Sunday St Gerasimus imparted the Holy Mysteries to his disciple.

After the death of St Gerasimus, the twenty-seven-year-old Cyriacus returned to the Lavra of St Euthymius, but he was no longer among the living. St Cyriacus asked for a solitary cell and there he pursued asceticism in silence, communicating only with the monk Thomas. But soon Thomas was sent to Alexandria where he was consecrated bishop, and St Cyriacus spent ten years in total silence. At 37 years of age he was ordained to the diaconate.

When a split occurred between the monasteries of St Euthymius and St Theoctistus, St Cyriacus withdrew to the Souka monastery of St Chariton (September 28). At this monastery they received even tonsured monks as novices, and so was St Cyriacus received. He toiled humbly at the regular monastic obediences. After several years, St Cyriacus was ordained priest and chosen canonarch and did this obedience for eighteen years. St Cyriacus spent thirty years at the monastery of St Chariton.

Strict fasting and total lack of evil distinguished St Cyriacus even among the ascetics of the Lavra. In his cell each night he read the Psalter, interrupting the reading only to go to church at midnight. The ascetic slept very little. When the monk reached seventy years of age, he went to the Natoufa wilderness taking with him his disciple John.

In the desert the hermits fed themselves only with bitter herbs, which through the prayer of St Cyriacus was rendered edible. After five years one of the inhabitants found out about the ascetics and brought to them his demon-possessed son, and St Cyriacus healed him. From that time many people began to approach the monk with their needs, but he sought complete solitude and fled to the Rouva wilderness, where he dwelt five years more. But the sick and those afflicted by demons came to him in this wilderness, and the saint healed them all with the Sign of the Cross and by anointing them with oil.

At his 80th year of life St Cyriacus fled to the hidden Sousakim wilderness, where two dried up streams passed by. According to Tradition, the holy Prophet David brought Sousakim to attention: "Thou hast dried up the rivers of Etham" (Ps 73/74:15). After seven years, brethren of the Souka monastery came to him, beseeching his spiritual help during a period of debilitating hunger and illness, which God permitted. They implored St Cyriacus to return to the monastery, and he settled in a cave, in which St Chariton had once lived.

St Cyriacus rendered great help to the Church in the struggle with the spreading heresy of the Origenists. By prayer and by word, he brought the wayward back to the true path, and strengthened the Orthodox in their faith. Cyril, the author of the Life of St Cyriacus, and a monk of the Lavra of St Euthymius, was a witness when St Cyriacus predicted the impending death of the chief heretics Nonos and Leontius, and soon the heresy would cease to spread.

The Most Holy Theotokos Herself commanded St Cyriacus to keep to the Orthodox teaching in its purity: Having appeared to him in a dream together with the Sts John the Baptist and John the Theologian, She refused to enter into the cell of the monk because in it was a book with the words of the heretic Nestorius. "In your cell is My enemy," She said (The appearance of the Most Holy Theotokos to St Cyriacus is commemorated on June 8).

At the age of ninety-nine, St Cyriacus again went off to Susakim and lived there with his disciple John. In the wilderness a huge lion waited on St Cyriacus, protecting him from robbers, but it did not bother wandering brethren and it ate from the monk's hand.

Once in the heat of summer, all the water in the hollow of a rock dried up, where the ascetics had stored water during the winter, and there was no other source of water. St Cyriacus prayed, and rain fell, filling the pit with water.

For the two years before his death St Cyriacus returned to the monastery and again settled into the cave of St Chariton. Until the end of his life the righteous Elder preserved his courage, and prayed with fervor. He was never idle, either he prayed, or he worked. Before his death St Cyriacus summoned the brethren and blessed them all. He quietly fell asleep in the Lord, having lived 109 years.
Troparion - Tone 1
O dweller of the desert and angel in the bodyYou appeared to us a wonder-worker.O God-bearing father Kyriacus,Through fasting, vigil and prayer you received Heavenly gifts,Healing the sick and the souls of those drawn to you by faith.Glory to Him who gave you strength!Glory to Him who granted you a crown!Glory to Him who through you grants healing to all!
Kontakion - Tone 2
You armed yourself divinely with purity of soul,And firmly wielding the lance of incessant prayer,You pierced through the devil's hosts.Intercede without ceasing for us all, O Cyriacus, our father!

Christ is in our Midst LX(letter 92)

When the devil brings despairing thoughts, drive him away with the whip of prayer, for he is very brazen; he strongly attacks those who aspire to the spiritual life. The holy men of God have experienced such horrors that they did not even want to commit them to writing. However, his evil will is limited; he tempts us as far as the Lord permits, suggesting various thoughts, but our free will can accept them or not, of course, with God's help. "


It would seem that if one aspires to living a holy life, this person becomes a magnet for the demons who will pester him at every turn always seeking to have the person give up.

"Go back to indifference. Why are you trying to be so good. Look around you. Nobody cares that you're trying to live a holy life. Don't you envy the wicked? Look how they act out on all their lusts of the flesh, the eyes, the mind the will. AND THEY'RE HAPPY, FOOL! Join them. Just this once. You know you want to. It feels so good.

"Assert yourself and put that dolt in his place. Justifiably you are angry. Who wouldn't be if that person acted that way towards them? God needs you in this world to play this very role. People are lost and need YOUR correction. Offer it. Come on, now. (He can't speak that way to you).

"And remember, even if you do sin, you know it says in that Book you guys read that God will forgive you no matter what. So what do you have to lose?

"Heh, heh. You followed our advice and now you feel remorse and emptiness. Yup. You really screwed up this time. God is so austere and holy,...He won't forgive you yet AGAIN for doing that same thing you've always done. And yes. We're afraid that He is tired of hearing you ask forgiveness yet again for your actions and thoughts. Tsk, tsk. Shame.(well, you've gone and sinned anyhow, might as well continue and drown out your guilt and enjoy yourself."

Boston pilgrims greeted by Orthodox Patriarch

Catholic and Orthodox pilgrims celebrate Great Vespers with Partriarch Bartholomew at the Patriarchate of Constantinople Sept 22. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy

ISTANBUL -- Boston’s Catholic and Orthodox pilgrims made their way from the heart of the Church in the West to the heart of the Church in the East arriving in Istanbul -- formerly known as Constantinople -- on Sept. 20.

The group of nearly 100 pilgrims set out from Boston Sept. 16 on a 10-day ecumenical pilgrimage, led by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Methodios. During their three days in Rome, the pilgrims not only visited St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican, but were able to visit the basilicas of St. Mary Major and St. Paul Outside the Walls, where they were given the opportunity to kiss the chains of St. Paul. Before leaving Rome, the pilgrims attended the Holy Father’s Wednesday general audience at the Vatican in which the pope greeted Cardinal O’Malley and Metropolitan Methodios. They prayed vespers at the Church of St. Theodore, the church John Paul II gave to the Greek Orthodox in Rome.

Upon arriving in Istanbul, the pilgrims visited sites of great significance in the Orthodox faith, including the Hagia Sophia, the former cathedral of the Church in the East, where the group of pilgrims participated in a celebration of great vespers with Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I Sept 22.

At the conclusion of the vespers service, Cardinal O’Malley and Metropolitan Methodios extended their greetings and made brief addresses to the patriarch.

In his remarks, Cardinal O’Malley cited the example of the close relationship between Boston’s Catholic and Orthodox Communities and pledged to work toward the goal of Christian unity.

“It is my pleasure to come here with my esteemed brother, his Eminence Metropolitan Methodios of Boston to manifest in this pilgrimage the fruition of a deeper relationship between the sister churches in Boston,” Cardinal O’Malley began.

The cardinal cited instances in which the Vatican and the Orthodox Church have collaborated in recent times.

“We in Boston have also exchanged many expressions of the love and solidarity,” he continued, underscoring that his friendship to Metropolitan Methodios is an example of that solidarity.

“Dialogue needs to be in the context of such relationships in order to bear fruit,” Cardinal O’Malley continued.

Concluding his remarks, Cardinal O’Malley pledged himself “to keenly do all that I can, with God’s help, to hasten the full physical unity, the restoration of priceless communion between the churches of East and West to the spread of the kingdom and the glory of the Most Holy Trinity.”

Metropolitan Methodios echoed Cardinal O’Malley’s sentiments, adding that it is his hope “that our pilgrimage may be a forerunner of many pilgrimages -- from the United States and throughout the world -- to Rome and Constantinople, so that our brothers, Orthodox and Roman Catholic alike, may come to pray.”

The metropolitan also prayed that all Christians “may see that [God’s] will is that, one day, we may all be one.”

Speaking to the patriarch, Metropolitan Methodios also called for the reopening of the Orthodox seminary on the Turkish Island of Heybeli, most commonly referred to by its Greek Name, Halki.

The Halki seminary was established in 1844 on the island of Heybeli, the second largest of the Princes’ Islands. It was the main school of theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church’s Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Earlier in the day the Boston pilgrims had paid a visit to the island seminary that was closed by the Turkish government in 1971 when the country outlawed all private religious institutes of higher learning.

“The time has come for Halki…to open,” stressed Metropolitan Methodios.

After the cardinal and metropolitan spoke, Patriarch Bartholomew offered his remarks.

“It is with sincere pleasure and paternal joy that we humbly welcome you,” Patriarch Bartholomew began.

Speaking to the group, he noted that this pilgrimage is much more than tourism.

“[You are] participating in the journey toward reconciliation to which Christ calls all of his disciples.”

Patriarch Bartholomew stressed that creating unity among the churches of the East and the West, “requires openness -- to learn from one another -- and faithfulness -- to work with one another.”

“It is only in this way that we will gradually create the necessary conditions to overcome prejudice, to appreciate differences and to discern the roots of our faith,” he said.

“This means that all of us -- both you and me -- from our own particular position and unique perspectives, are called to engage in and explore ways of overcoming barriers,” he said.

Later in the evening the patriarch held a special audience with the pilgrims. After greeting each pilgrim personally, he presented them with a small golden cross to mark the occasion.

After making stops in Rome and Istanbul, the pilgrimage was to conclude in St. Petersburg, Russia with visits to such sites as St. Isaac and Kazan Cathedrals and the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.


More of the "Sister Church" theory talk which is not correct in speaking about the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Churches and the Roman Catholic Church. We are not "sister churches" at present.

I made similar comments on the previous article of this pilgrimmage on the above link.

Securitate involvement within the Romanian Orthodox Church

Nicolae Corneanu, Metropolitan of Banat, has admitted that for 41 years he worked as a spy for the Romanian secret police organisation Securitate. Cristian Patrasconi calls on the new patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Daniel Ciobotea, to adopt a clear stance on the secret service past of church dignitaries. "He has a serious problem: on the one hand Metropolitan Nicolae Corneanu has expressed his regret, on the other hand high dignitaries who are likewise suspected of having worked for Securitate remain unaffected. This is the most important challenge for Daniel since he took office. If we look to Poland - a country we envy for many reasons - we see what high dignitaries who played a similarly reprehensible role between traitor and servant of the church have done there: they have resigned."



Lost Romanov bones 'identified'

The remains of the other Romanovs were exhumed in 1991

Russian scientists have said they may have identified the missing remains of two of Tsar Nicholas II's children, who were executed after the revolution.

Experts said it was "highly probable" the remains found near Yekaterinburg in July were Alexei, the heir to the throne, and Maria, his elder sister.
They were missing when most of the family's remains were found in 1991.

The tsar, his wife and five children were shot dead by a Bolshevik firing squad in Yekaterinburg on 17 July 1918.
In 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church canonised the royal family, saying they had undergone suffering with gentleness, patience and humility.

Forensic tests
Citing preliminary forensic and DNA tests, the deputy forensic chief scientist in the Sverdlovsk region said the appearance, age and sex of the remains they found mean it was "highly probable" they belonged to Alexei and Maria.

"On the basis of the expert analysis, it is possible to conclude with a large degree of certainty that parts of the skeleton... belong to Tsarevich Alexei and his sister, Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna Romanova", Vladimir Gromov told Russian media.
The BBC's James Rodgers in Moscow says the whereabouts of the missing Romanov children has been one of the great unsolved mysteries of Russia's blood-soaked revolution.

After they were shot, the bodies of the tsar and the remainder of his family were burned, doused with acid and thrown into a pit.
They were exhumed in 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Final identification of the rest of their family took years, and they were ceremonially buried at the St Peter and Paul Cathedral in St Petersburg in 1998.
Even since then, some members of the Russian Orthodox Church have continued to question the scientists' conclusions, our correspondent says.

Orthodox Church Leaks to Aviation

Religion, in particular – the Orthodox Church, is catching up Russian aviation: a new aircraft of the airline Kaliningrad Avia has been named after metropolitan Kirill, head of Church’s external affairs department of the Moscow Patriarchy.

On September 17 the medium haul plane Boeing 737-300 has started flights in the framework of the airline’s routes schedule. On September 26 metropolitan Kirill arrived to the Russian city of Kaliningrad with a pastoral visit and consecrated the aircraft that now bears the metropolitan’s name.

The airline Kaliningrad Avia carries out daily from Russia to Europe via the international airport Khabarovo in Kaliningrad.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Venerable Chariton the Confessor the Abbot of Palestine

Commemorated on September 28

Saint Chariton the Confessor suffered at Iconium during one of the persecutions against Christians under the emperor Aurelian. The grace-bearing example of the holy Protomartyr Thekla (September 24) encouraged him in his confessor's deed. She being a native of his city, whose memory he in particular deeply venerated.

St Chariton bravely denounced the pagan gods and staunchly confessed faith in the One True God, Christ the Savior. The holy Confessor underwent fierce tortures but, through the Providence of God, he remained alive. When the persecution abated, the saint was set free from prison and he dedicated all his life to the service of the Lord.

Journeying to Jerusalem on pilgrimage to the holy places, he fell into the hands of robbers. They tied him up and threw him in a cave, intending to kill him later, and they hastened away on business. The saint prayed fervently in expectation of death. He gave thanks to God and entreated him to do with him according to His will.

At this time a snake crawled into the cave and began to drink wine from a vessel setting there, poisoning it with its deadly venom. Returning to the cave, the robbers drank the poisoned wine and they all perished. St Chariton gave thanks to God and began his ascetic struggles at the place of his miraculous rescue. He distributed the plundered gold of the robbers to the poor, and in the robbers cave he built a church, around which in time there formed a monastery, the renowned Pharan Lavra in Palestine.

St Chariton compiled a strict rule for his monastery. Yearning for solitude, the monk went farther into the desert, but there also he did not reject those who sought his spiritual guidance, and he founded two more monasteries: the Jericho and the Souka, named the "Old Lavra." At the end of his life, St Chariton struggled in a cave on a hill near the Souka monastery, but he did not cease to provide guidance for all three of the monasteries he founded.

According to Tradition, St Chariton compiled the office of taking monastic vows. St Chariton the Confessor died in extreme old age and was buried, in accord with his last wishes, in the Pharan monastery in the church, built on the site of the robbers' cave.

Troparion - Tone 8
By a flood of tears you made the desert fertile,and your longing for God brought forth fruits in abundance.By the radiance of miracles you illumined the whole universe!Our Father Chariton, pray to Christ God to save our souls!

Kontakion - Tone 2
You delighted in the monastic life, divinely-wise oneand conquered the bodily passions;you increased in faith, blossoming as the tree of life in the midst of Paradise,most blessed and holy Chariton!


Elevation of Priest Eric G. Tosi

On Sunday September 30 2007, Priest Father Eric George Tosi will be elevated to Arch Priest during the Divine Liturgy at which His Grace Bishop Benjamin will be serving.

Father Eric is a very special man and a devoted servant of the Church who serves her with his entire life.

I know. I happen to be fortunate enough to call him my priest and confessor and his counsel has always been with love and care, seeking that Christ may be formed in me.

I am also the Vice President of the Parish Council and in this capacity I have been challenged in areas I didn't know existed. Father Eric has guided me here with a (relatively)light hand knowing that "It'll all be fine" to paraphrase him a bit in that even if I screw up, he has faith in our Lord's providence to make use of whatever situation may present itself to the glory of God.

I simply here want to wish him many years and to express my gratitude for his tireless efforts on behalf of our very diverse parish(and I mean diverse: Americans, Russians, Ethiopians, Greeks, Eritreans, Romanians, Serbs, converts as well as other groups call St. Paul "Home").

If anyone reading this knows him or his family, contact him and wish him many years.

And since I've got your attention, be sure to read this biography on him.

As well, here is the link to St. Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church, a parish of the Orthodox Church in America as well as the link to the Life Giving Spring Retreat Center. This website has much useful information on the parish itself as well as a wonderful Orthodox library for more learning about the Faith.

Christ is in our Midst LIX(letter 90)

" 90

28 August 1954

You think so foolishly. You write that there is no God, man dies and everything ends with that, there is no life beyond the grave, it is only man's invention.

In his day the prophet David said: 'The fool says in his heart, "There is no God" ' [Ps. 14.1], and here you have joined yourself to this foolishness. You think so flippantly, but I believe deeply and am convinced that God exists, there is a future life, there is eternal torment for sinners and eternal bliss for the righteous.

How could I not believe in God when wherever I look, everywhere I see and contemplate God's wisdom and goodness. With what wisdom everything is created, and how harmonious is the whole earthly sphere! The Holy Church sings: 'How magnificent are thy works, O Lord; Thou hast made all things in wisdom'.26 Thy works are marvellous, Lord; wherever I look, everywhere I see thy creative hand. I look at the sun and see it shedding light like a golden plate and warming the whole globe. And what numbers of animals abound in the forest, each with its own characteristics. The horse is so large and yet it obeys man; the Lord created it to help man. And the cow eats hay and its stomach makes nourishing milk for man. And the meek lamb, how much good it does for man; we get fur coats, stockings and much else. I look at the bird kingdom -simply marvellous, how decorative they are and what a variety of species. And in the earth what a variety of worms and insects; there are even worms that shine at night like lights. I look at the ant and wonder at its labours - it exposes my laziness. And the wise bee gathers such sweet honey for man from the different flowers. And look in the water; there is the special kingdom of fish, how many different species; all live and move according to God's purpose.

I love nature altogether. I come into the forest and wonder at every tree and knoll and I contemplate the Almighty Creator. Now I am thinking and wondering at how I came to appear in God's world. My conception was like this: my father's seed fell on my mother's ground in the form of a worm and grew in my mother's womb for nine months and I gradually came into the form of a man. At the end of the ninth month according to the law of nature I came as if out of prison into the wide world. I received an Orthodox baptism; I thank God that I am Orthodox. I believe with certitude in God, in the Holy Trinity, and I believe in Mary the Virgin Mother of God and in all the saints extolled by the Orthodox Church. I believe in the Ecumenical Councils and the whole of Holy Scripture according to the catechism; I believe in everything that our Holy Orthodox Church teaches us.

But this is sad: our Orthodox do not all know their Orthodox teaching; they waver and some even fall into various sects and schisms. They do not know, poor creatures, that all heresies and sects are based on pride and self-suggestion; they say 'we are saved'. They do not recognize the whole Bible but select only what justifies their teaching. One sectarian told me that they know the whole Bible inside out. But I am not surprised at this knowledge of theirs: the Pharisees too knew the whole Bible, but they did not live by it and did not recognize the Truth; they crucified the Lord.

Again I am wondering at God's wisdom. I love the moonlit nights of winter, everywhere utter silence; I put on my fur coat, felt boots and warm cap, go out into the yard and marvel at God's wisdom — the moon is shining, and so many stars, the whole sky is adorned with them, far away and still farther, just single little stars, endlessly. Marvellous are thy works, O Lord, in wisdom Thou hast made them all!

The more I look at nature, the more I wonder at nnd come to know the omnipotence of the Creator. I was not educated; I have not even read scientific books,; I have written this from my feelings, having read the Bible a great deal. My life has passed; I am already in my eighty-second year.

According to the word of the Holy Spirit, man's life on earth is seventy years. Of course many die without reaching that age, but it is an average number. If a man is vigorous he may live eighty years, with difficulties and illnesses after that. Death is an immutable law; the whole race of man from Adam to the Second Coming will pass into another world, and their bodies, at God's command, will rise again. Even those bodies which have been burnt will also rise again; I have no doubt of this. With God everything is possible. Even this beautiful world will in time be done away with, as is said in Holy Scripture.

Mankind has become so earthbound! People have quite forgotten that this life of ours is the path to eternity and a preparation for it: they get excited and worked up in this vale of tears. You meet very few with whom you can even talk about the one thing needful.
26. Psalm 104, sung at the beginning of Vespers. "


I love Father John's spirited and childlike response to whatever letter he received from this person.

I sense his grief that this person has so easily brushed aside the wonder of creation so easily in favor of not believing, not seeing God in all His handiwork in this wondrous creation.

Every so often I myself am taken aback at what a miracle it is simply to exist and that EVERYTHING is a miracle. but through its familiarity to me now, as well as the mud that smothers my soul through sin, the "wonder of it all" is so hard to know. So I pursue knowledge that is esoteric and heady.

For a time I found refuge here, in these constructs of thought, but I believe now there is no food here for the sustenance of my soul. Food is to be found in the unknowing of that which I know by my insistent will to know so that I may know in order to know.

The goal of a man is union with God. In my pursuit "to know" I have excluded God and replaced Him with knowledge. This is not all, of course, that I have replaced Him with.

I believe it is my duty, for my soul's sake, to guard that "wonder of it all" that I possesed as a child and which possessed me. If I leave this wonder unguarded, it is so easily stolen by what is so commonly esteemed as knowledge but which is a false knowledge which my fallen intellect grabs a hold of and makes me wise in my own estimation.

Books I've Read(or am reading)-Seven: The Brothers Karamazov

Well, I completed this book yesterday and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed reading this literary masterpiece.

I cannot believe how quickly the reading came to an end. Surely the sign of something I enjoyed.

The only part that aggravated me was the trial of Dimitry, or Mitya as he is also called. It would seem that the emergence of the new psychological sciences were creating quite a stir during this time and the impression I got was that Fyodor Dostoyevsky was "showing off" a bit to his readers in showing his understanding of psychology. I did not enjoy the long winded speeches of the prosecution nor the defense. Especially the defence, when he would hit upon some concrete evidence to exonerate Mitya, would pass this up to expound on themes that made Dimitry a victim of his circumstances and therefore to be forgiven on this basis.

If someone reading this blog has some insight into this that I am not seeing, please let me know.

I will not say anymore about the story in case someone reading this has not read the book. But again, apart from my above stated quibble, what a wonderful read.


Books I've Read(or am reading)-Eight: Gifts of the Desert

I must say that i am looking forward to this book, Gifts of the Desert by Kyriacos C. Markides as I highly enjoyed the author's other work, The Mountain of Silence.
Although The Mountain of Silence contained in my view some erroneous beliefs held by the author, nevertheless he was honest in conveying authentic Orthodox spirituality and belief through the mouth of "Father Maximos", the man (whose name is altered to hide his true identity).
I expect more of the same from this work but I believe this work has merit in hopefully exposing many to the Orthodox Faith especially from eastern religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and various practitioners of other beliefs dissillusioned with Christianity or what passes as Christianity which they have rejected or never given any serious thought to.
I think this is the audience that would most be receptive to this book.

Eritrean Christians tell of torture

Paulus says he was tortured for being an Evangelical Christian(left)
Patriarch Antonious (l) used to have good relations with the president (r) (above left)

The Orthodox Church has been in Eritrea for 1600 years(above right)

By Tanya Datta
BBC News, northern Ethiopia

An Eritrean refugee lies contorted on the ground. Balanced on his belly, his hands clutch his feet behind his back, bending his legs back almost double.

Paulus is demonstrating a torture technique known colloquially as "the helicopter".

It is one he knows well. It was in this excruciating position, he claims, that soldiers left him tied up for 136 hours, in an attempt to force him to recant his faith.

"They kept asking me to sign a document," he recalls, "and agree to not participate in church activities or express my faith in any form. I was told I would be untied and released the minute I agreed to their requests."

Paulus is an evangelical Christian from Eritrea, one of an increasing number fleeing the tiny Red Sea state because of religious persecution.

Home these days is Shimelba refugee camp in northern Ethiopia, close to the disputed border with Eritrea. Here, in the Ebenezer Evangelical Church on camp, Paulus is free to worship in a way that is unthinkable back in his homeland.


During the past five years, a brutal campaign has been waged in Eritrea against Christian minorities, focusing mainly on the evangelical and Pentecostal movements.

Weddings, baptisms, church services and prayer meetings have been raided ...READ THE REST HERE:

World’s Only Amber Church to Appear in Russia

Russian Pediatric Medical Academy in St. Petersburg is creating a new wonder of the world – it is planned to turn the hospital church into the only ever amber Orthodox church. Today, September 27, the church’s rector got a cross encrusted with amber and also three icons with their wooden kiots decorated with amber.

However, these are sample icons: later the priesthood and the church’s visitors will choose the style the kiots will be done in. It is planned to fully re-decorate the church inside within the nearest 5-7 years: the iconostasis, ornaments, windows, and even furniture – everything will be made of amber.

Hmm. should be interesting and very beautiful.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Martyr Callistratus

Commemorated on September 27
Saint Callistratus was a native of Carthage. An ancestor of St Callistratus, Neochorus, has served under the emperor Tiberius in Palestine, under the command of Pontius Pilate, the procurator of Judea, and was a witness to the suffering on the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, His voluntary death and glorious Resurrection.
The saint's father was a Christian, and he raised his son in faith and piety. Also like his father, St Callistratus became a soldier and excelled among his pagan military comrades by his good conduct and gentle disposition.
At night when everyone slept, he usually stayed up at prayer. Once, a soldier sleeping nearby heard St Callistratus invoking the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and he reported this to the military commander, who in turn summoned Callistratus, interrogated him and wanted to make him offer sacrifice to idols. The saint resolutely refused to do this, so the military commander ordered that the saint be beaten. Then, covered with wounds, the saint was dragged over sharp stones. The beating and the torments did not sway the firm will and brave endurance of the sufferer.
The saint was sewn up in a leather sack and drown him in the sea. By God's mercy, however, the sack struck a sharp rock and was torn open. St Callistratus came to dry land unharmed, carried by dolphins. Viewing such a miracle, forty-nine soldiers came to believe in Christ. Then the military commander threw St Callistratus and the believing soldiers into prison. Before this, all of them were subjected to innumerable floggings.
In jail St Callistatus continued to preach the Word of God to the soldiers and he bolstered their spirits for martyrdom. Summoned again before the military commander, the sufferers firmly confessed their faith in Christ, after which they were bound hand and foot and thrown into a dam. But there their bonds broke, and with bright faces the holy martyrs stood in the water, rejoicing in their Baptism, which coincided with the act of martyrdom.
Beautiful bright crowns appeared over their heads, and all heard a voice: "Be brave, Callistratus, with your company, and come rest in the eternal habitations." At the same time, the earth shuddered and an idol standing nearby fell down and smashed. Seeing this, another 135 soldiers also believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. The military commander, fearing a mutiny in the army, did not put them on trial, but again imprisoned St Callistratus with the others, where they fervently prayed and gave thanks to the Creator for giving them power to endure such sufferings.
At night the martyrs were cut to pieces with swords by order of the military commander. Their holy relics were buried by the 135 soldiers who remained alive. Later, a church was built on the spot of their sufferings, as St Callistatus had foretold.

Christ is in our Midst LVIII(letter 88)

" 88

21 August 1954

You are troubled that some of the clergy perform the service very carelessly, and sometimes you do not even feel like going to church. Realize and believe firmly that the Holy Mysteries take place not according to the worthiness of the priests, but by the mercy and grace of God's love.

Here is a graphic example for you: a certain hermit used to be visited by a presbyter from the nearest church and given Holy Communion. Somebody slandered the presbyter to the hermit and the hermit refused to receive him. The presbyter went away. And then the hermit heard a voice: 'Men have usurped My judgement'. After this the hermit fell into a trance and had a vision. He saw a golden well, a gold bucket and a golden rope, and the water in the well was of especially good quality. He saw a leper at the well drawing water and filling a vessel. The hermit could not drink because it was a leper who was drawing water. And again he heard a voice: 'Why do you not drink the water? What is it to you who draws from it? He is only drawing it and pouring it into a vessel.' The hermit came to himself, summoned the presbyter and asked him to give him Holy Communion as before (Paterikon).

Never condemn priests; they commit sins and they too will answer to God on the day of judgement. Rather pray for them and inwardly ask for their holy prayers. So the Holy Fathers teach. You see the inadequacies of priests, but look at yourself, how you stand and pray. Why, sometimes the whole service goes by while you are imagining things of this world!

'Lord, grant me to see my own sins and not to judge the


Disappointed that historic moment overlooked

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

- Father Steve Tumbas, St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church

We at St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church were sorely disappointed by the minimal coverage by the Ledger Dispatch of a most momentous recent event in the history of our church, indeed in the history of the town of Jackson.

Born in 1863, Father Sebastian Dabovich, the first American-born Serbian Orthodox priest, traveled to Jackson to minister to the Serbian miners. Due to his encouragement, the first Serbian Orthodox Church in the United States was completed in 1894. Father Sebastian also traveled widely in the United States, as well as to other continents, in his tireless missionary efforts. He died and was buried in Serbia in 1940.

For many years, we in Jackson have been trying to have the relics of Father Sebastian returned to our church. Over Labor Day weekend, we saw this desire fulfilled. With five hierarchs in attendance (including one who traveled from Serbia, and one from Australia), as well as over thirty clergy from the Western States and across America, we celebrated divine liturgy at the St. Sava Camp and then processed to our church where the relics were interred.

We had sent the press release announcing this event to the Ledger Dispatch, the Sacramento Bee, and the Stockton Record. The latter two publications sent reporters and photographers out in advance of the event and on the day of the event, resulting in stunning coverage in their papers.

Mayra Jimenez of your staff has been extremely supportive of St. Sava and did contact us to obtain a photo and information for a caption. This appeared on the Religion page. We are grateful for her efforts. But we find it embarrassing that such an historic event which took place in Jackson and was of front-page importance was virtually overlooked by the local paper.

Father Steve Tumbas

St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church



Belarus "Threatens" Expulsion Of Foreign Priests

Foreign priests face possible expulsion under Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko. Via Wikipedia

Wednesday, 26 September 2007
By BosNewsLife News Center in Budapest

BUDAPESY/MINSK (BosNewsLife)-- The government of Belarus has threatened to expel all foreign priests from the former Soviet republic, a Protestant news agency reported Wednesday, September 26.

Belarus Prime Minister Aleksandr Kosinets announced that "all foreign Roman Catholic priests may be required to leave the country," reported the well-informed Adventist Press Service (APD). Most of the 350 Catholic priests serving in Belarus were born abroad.

The threatened ban on foreign priests, which would take effect over a period of months, comes as the Russian news agency Interfax reported that the Vatican and the government of Belarus are negotiating a 'concordat', an agreement between the secular and religious power, to establish "the legal rights of the Catholic Church" in this mostly Orthodox country.

For the last twelve years, the number of Roman Catholic parishes in Belarus increased four times, APD said.


There are reportedly 432 parishes in the country, united in four dioceses. According to polls, some 17% of the believers in Belarus claim to be Catholics. Concordats generally give the Roman Catholic Church certain legal and financial privileges – such as state subsidies - forever, unless the Church agrees to relinquish them.

"I believe the Vatican will be interested in concluding an agreement with the Republic of Belarus," added the head of the Commission for Human Rights, Ethnic Relations and the Mass Media of the Belarusian National Assembly, Yury Kulakovsky, in published remarks.

It was not immediately clear Wednesday why Belarus is apparently seeking closer ties with the Vatican while at the same time preparing to ban foreign priests from the country.


Analysts have suggested that the increasingly isolated administration of autocratic President Alexander Lukashenko wants to control all churches in the country. Belarus generally supported the official Orthodox Church, as it also kept close ties to Moscow since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

However especially active non-Orthodox Christians have been targeted by the government, several churches and other sources have said.

Belarus' Roman Catholic minority, comprises up to 17 percent of the country's population and is concentrated in the western part of the country, according to estimates. Smaller Christian groups include evangelicals and other Protestant Christians.

Georgia-According To Okruashvili President Sees Main Rival In Church

Tbilisi. September 25 (Prime-News) – Irakli Okruashvili, former Minister of Defense of Georgia and the leader of “Movement for Unified Georgia”, stated that Mikheil Saakashvili, President of Georgia, saw his main rival in the church and he launched his struggle against the Orthodox Church with collecting incriminating evidences on clergy.

Irakli Okruashvili declared in Tbilisi-based Imedi TV's late-night talk-show, "On the Air" on Tuesday that President of Georgia issued the order about the destruction of the church in Adjara on the basis of the aforementioned "rivalry".

According to his statement, Giga Bokeria, one of the members of the ruling majority, had taken the above-mentioned decision. "Giga Bokeria is the supreme ideologist of the country and the President of Georgia implements his ideas, correspondingly these two persons take decisions in the country," stated Okruashvili.

According to the opinion polls, the Georgian Orthodox Church always occupies the first place. "President hates when somebody overshadows his ideas… He sees rival in the Orthodox Church," remarked ex Minister of Defense of Georgia.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Repose of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian

Commemorated on September 26

The Holy, Glorious All-laudable Apostle and Evangelist, Virgin, and Beloved Friend of Christ, John the Theologian was the son of Zebedee and Salome, a daughter of St Joseph the Betrothed. He was called by our Lord Jesus Christ to be one of His Apostles at the same time as his elder brother James. This took place at Lake Gennesareth (i.e. the Sea of Galilee). Leaving behind their father, both brothers followed the Lord.

The Apostle John was especially loved by the Savior for his sacrificial love and his virginal purity. After his calling, the Apostle John did not part from the Lord, and he was one of the three apostles who were particularly close to Him. St John the Theologian was present when the Lord restored the daughter of Jairus to life, and he was a witness to the Transfiguration of the Lord on Mount Tabor.

During the Last Supper, he reclined next to the Lord, and laid his head upon His breast. He also asked the name of the Savior's betrayer. The Apostle John followed after the Lord when they led Him bound from the Garden of Gethsemane to the court of the iniquitous High Priests Annas and Caiphas. He was there in the courtyard of the High Priest during the interrogations of his Teacher and he resolutely followed after him on the way to Golgotha, grieving with all his heart.

At the foot of the Cross he stood with the Mother of God and heard the words of the Crucified Lord addressed to Her from the Cross: "Woman, behold Thy son." Then the Lord said to him, "Behold thy Mother" (John 19:26-27). From that moment the Apostle John, like a loving son, concerned himself over the Most Holy Virgin Mary, and he served Her until Her Dormition.

After the Dormition of the Mother of God the Apostle John went to Ephesus and other cities of Asia Minor to preach the Gospel, taking with him his own disciple Prochorus. They boarded a ship, which floundered during a terrible tempest. All the travellers were cast up upon dry ground, and only the Apostle John remained in the depths of the sea. Prochorus wept bitterly, bereft of his spiritual father and guide, and he went on towards Ephesus alone.

On the fourteenth day of his journey he stood at the shore of the sea and saw that the waves had cast a man ashore. Going up to him, he recognized the Apostle John, whom the Lord had preserved alive for fourteen days in the sea. Teacher and disciple went to Ephesus, where the Apostle John preached incessantly to the pagans about Christ. His preaching was accompanied by such numerous and great miracles, that the number of believers increased with each day.

During this time there had begun a persecution of Christians under the emperor Nero (56-68). They took the Apostle John for trial at Rome. St John was sentenced to death for his confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but the Lord preserved His chosen one. The apostle drank a cup of deadly poison, but he remained alive. Later, he emerged unharmed from a cauldron of boiling oil into which he had been thrown on orders from the torturer.

After this, they sent the Apostle John off to imprisonment to the island of Patmos, where he spent many years. Proceeding along on his way to the place of exile, St John worked many miracles. On the island of Patmos, his preaching and miracles attracted to him all the inhabitants of the island, and he enlightened them with the light of the Gospel. He cast out many devils from the pagan temples, and he healed a great multitude of the sick.

Sorcerers with demonic powers showed great hostility to the preaching of the holy apostle. He especially frightened the chief sorcerer of them all, named Kinops, who boasted that they would destroy the apostle. But the great John, by the grace of God acting through him, destroyed all the demonic artifices to which Kinops resorted, and the haughty sorcerer perished in the depths of the sea.

The Apostle John withdrew with his disciple Prochorus to a desolate height, where he imposed upon himself a three-day fast. As St John prayed the earth quaked and thunder rumbled. Prochorus fell to the ground in fright. The Apostle John lifted him up and told him to write down what he was about to say. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord, Who is and Who was and Who is to come, the Almighty" (Rev 1:8), proclaimed the Spirit of God through the Apostle John. Thus in about the year 67 the Book of Revelation was written, known also as the "Apocalypse," of the holy Apostle John the Theologian. In this Book were predictions of the tribulations of the Church and of the end of the world.

After his prolonged exile, the Apostle John received his freedom and returned to Ephesus, where he continued with his activity, instructing Christians to guard against false teachers and their erroneous teachings. In the year 95, the Apostle John wrote his Gospel at Ephesus. He called for all Christians to love the Lord and one another, and by this to fulfill the commands of Christ. The Church calls St John the "Apostle of Love", since he constantly taught that without love man cannot come near to God.

In his three Epistles, St John speaks of the significance of love for God and for neighbor. Already in his old age, he learned of a youth who had strayed from the true path to follow the leader of a band of robbers, so St John went out into the wilderness to seek him. Seeing the holy Elder, the guilty one tried to hide himself, but the Apostle John ran after him and besought him to stop. He promised to take the sins of the youth upon himself, if only he would repent and not bring ruin upon his soul. Shaken by the intense love of the holy Elder, the youth actually did repent and turn his life around.

St John when he was more than a hundred years old. he far outlived the other eyewitnesses of the Lord, and for a long time he remained the only remaining eyewitness of the earthly life of the Savior.

When it was time for the departure of the Apostle John, he went out beyond the city limits of Ephesus with the families of his disciples. He bade them prepare for him a cross-shaped grave, in which he lay, telling his disciples that they should cover him over with the soil. The disciples tearfully kissed their beloved teacher, but not wanting to be disobedient, they fulfilled his bidding. They covered the face of the saint with a cloth and filled in the grave. Learning of this, other disciples of St John came to the place of his burial. When they opened the grave, they found it empty.

Each year from the grave of the holy Apostle John on May 8 came forth a fine dust, which believers gathered up and were healed of sicknesses by it. Therefore, the Church also celebrates the memory of the holy Apostle John the Theologian on May 8.

The Lord bestowed on His beloved disciple John and John's brother James the name "Sons of Thunder" as an awesome messenger in its cleansing power of the heavenly fire. And precisely by this the Savior pointed out the flaming, fiery, sacrificial character of Christian love, the preacher of which was the Apostle John the Theologian. The eagle, symbol of the lofty heights of his theological thought, is the iconographic symbol of the Evangelist John the Theologian. The appellation "Theologian" is bestown by Holy Church only to St John among the immediate disciples and Apostles of Christ, as being the seer of the mysterious Judgments of God.

Troparion - Tone 2
Beloved apostle of Christ our God,hasten to deliver a defenseless people.He who allowed you to recline on His breast,receives you as you bow before Him.Implore Him, John the Theologian,to disperse the persistent threat from the heathens,entreating for us peace and great mercy.

Kontakion - Tone 2
Who shall declare your greatness,O virgin disciple,for you pour forth wonders and are a source of healings,and pray for our souls as Theologian and friend of Christ.



Christ is in our Midst LVII(letter 86)

... " You write that for twenty-five years you have been reading and listening and feeding on God's word, but it was no use. What use do you want it to have? Or do you want to see yourself faultless and holy in everything? This does not happen in the spiritual life. Be satisfied with seeing your inadequacies, for from this gradually, imperceptibly comes humility, if only to a small degree. And our deviations and attractions to worldly allurements are very humbling to our ego. I recall having written to you about this more than once...."

Earthly Loyalties

page 1 of 2

Illustration by Jamil Dar

by Marina Kozlova
25 September 2007

TOL SPECIAL REPORT: Russian Orthodox believers face problems in Uzbekistan, but the church remains one of the most reliable supporters of President Islam Karimov’s regime.

[This is the second in a series of articles examining the state of religious liberty in the countries of Central Asia. Also see:

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan In the Soviet Union, Orthodox believers had to be furtive. Some donned wigs and dark glasses to attend Easter services. Others, fearing recognition, made the painful choice not to go to church at all, even if it meant missing the funeral of a loved one.

These days, Orthodox Christians who live in former Soviet states are no longer fired from their jobs for adhering to an “alien” ideology, but that does not mean they worship freely throughout the region. In Uzbekistan, those who miss work in order to observe Orthodox Christmas, for instance, risk losing their jobs. The day is a holiday in neighboring Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

In 2005, Uzbek authorities refused, without explanation, to allow entry into the country of the relics of Orthodox saints Grand Duchess Elizaveta Fyodorovna and a nun, Varvara Yakovleva, who had worked among the poor and were killed by Bolsheviks in 1918. The relics were on a tour of former Soviet states. READ THE REST HERE:

Greece withdraws history text book after complaints from church, academics

The Associated Press Published: September 25, 2007

ATHENS, Greece: Greece's conservative government withdrew a sixth-grade history textbook from state schools Tuesday following complaints by the Orthodox Church and right wing critics who said it was inaccurate and unpatriotic.

New Education Minister Evipidis Stylianidis said the book was removed from the national curriculum after a panel of ministry experts reviewed it Monday.

"Given the serious reservations regarding the content of the book, it has been decided that the book will be withdrawn," Stylianidis said. "It will be replaced with the older textbook until a new book is ready."

The book had been issued during the previous academic year. But it faced fierce criticism from conservative commentators and many academics who argued that it minimized the suffering of Greeks following the country's defeat by Turkey in a 1919-1922 war.

Historical rivalry between Greece and Turkey has eased in recent years, but they remain at odds over the divided island of Cyprus and disputed boundaries in the Aegean Sea. Athens has supported Ankara's bid to join the European Union, and the two countries have forged stronger economic ties.

Tuesday's news was welcomed by the leader of Greece's Orthodox Church, Archbishop Christodoulos, who is being treated for cancer in the United States.

"The Church was first ... to resist this distortion by the doubters of historical facts," he said in a statement.

The government had promised to amend the book in August but the issue was raised repeatedly during a campaign for the Sept. 16 general election, in which the conservative government won re-election.

The rightist LAOS party won enough votes to enter parliament for the first time, after campaigning for the withdrawal of the book and supporting tougher policies against traditional rival Turkey.

After the balloting, Stylianidis took over the ministry from Marietta Giannakou, who was not re-elected to Parliament.

On Tuesday, he denied that he had given in to right-wing pressure. "School books are constantly reviewed and assessed by the ministry. That's how it works," he said.

Opposition parties described the decision as signaling a shift by the government to the political right.

"This was not a result of observations made by the education community, but of pressure exerted by nationalist circles and out of religious fundamentalism," the Left Coalition party said.

The widely anticipated decision was also criticized by liberal newspapers.

"Put simply, this is LAOS' first victory," wrote commentator Stavros Theodorakis in the Athens daily Ta Nea. "I am sure their next request will be to shred the books and use the paper to make a statue of Alexander the Great outside parliament."


RUSSIA: Compulsory Orthodox lessons to continue, Belgorod official insists

This article was published by F18News on: 25 September 2007

By Geraldine Fagan, Forum 18 News Service

Pastor Andrei Karchev of Kingdom of God Pentecostal Church objects to the compulsory Orthodox Culture classes which have just begun again in schools in his home region of Belgorod for the second year running. "When only one confession is taught - when the textbook emphasises that only Orthodox Christians are Christians while others are sects – in our opinion, this is bad," he complained to Forum 18 News Service. However, Karchev notes that although the subject is officially compulsory, unofficially he and other parents have been able to withdraw their children from the classes. Such children's grades suffer as they get no mark for the subject. Another local Protestant pastor pointed out to Forum 18 that not all teachers in Belgorod Region follow the Russian Orthodox line. "One said openly that she doesn't believe in God, but they've been told to teach the subject." Olga Yeliseyeva, the specialist on Orthodox Culture at Belgorod Regional Education Authority, insisted to Forum 18 that the region has no intention of halting teaching of the subject.

The authorities in the south-western region of Belgorod have no intention of halting compulsory instruction in Orthodox Culture to some 140,000 state school pupils, a local educational official has insisted to Forum 18 News Service. Olga Yeliseyeva, the specialist on Orthodox Culture at Belgorod Regional Education Authority, pointed out to Forum 18 that educational reforms currently under review in Russia's federal parliament passed only their first reading on 11 September. "They could still be changed," she remarked to Forum 18 on 24 September.

Belgorod is the Russian region that has gone furthest in promoting the Foundations of Orthodox Culture subject, the initiative of the Russian Orthodox Church. Elsewhere in Russia, the situation is more patchy, ....READ THE REST HERE:


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Repose of the Venerable Sergius, Abbot and Wonderworker of Radonezh

Commemorated on September 25

Saint Sergius of Radonezh was born in the village of Varnitsa, near Rostov, on May 3, 1314. His parents were the pious and illustrious nobles Cyril and Maria (September 28). The Lord chose him while still in his mother's womb. In the Life of St Sergius it is reported that even before the birth of her son, St Maria and those praying heard the thrice-repeated cry of the infant at the Divine Liturgy: before the reading of the Holy Gospel, during the Cherubic hymn, and when the priest pronounced: "Holy Things are for the Holy."

God gave Cyril and Maria a son whom they named Bartholomew. From his very first days of life the infant amazed everyone by his fasting. On Wednesdays and Fridays he would not accept milk from his mother, and on other days, if Maria used oil in the food, the infant also refused the milk of his mother. Noticing this, Maria refrained altogether from food with oil.

At the age of seven, Bartholomew was sent to study together with his two brothers: his older brother Stephen, and his younger brother Peter. His brothers learned successfully, but Bartholomew fell behind in his studies, even though the teacher gave him much special attention. The parents scolded the child, the teacher chastised him, and his classmates made fun of his lack of comprehension. Finally, Bartholomew besought the Lord with tears to grant him the ability to read.

Once, his father sent Bartholomew out after the horses in the field. Along the way he met an angel sent by God under the appearance of a monk. The Elder stood at prayer beneath an oak in a field. Bartholomew approached him, and bowing, waited for the Elder to finish praying. The monk blessed him, gave him a kiss and asked what he wanted.

Bartholomew answered, "With all my soul I want to learn reading and writing. Holy Father, pray for me to God, that He may help me to become literate." The monk fulfilled Bartholomew's request, offering up his prayer to God. In blessing the child he said to him: "Henceforth, my child, God gives you to understand reading and writing, and in this you will surpass your brothers and peers" (See the famous M. Nesterov painting "Vision of Bartholomew").

Then the Elder took a vessel and gave Bartholomew a piece of prosphora."Take, child, and eat," said he."This is given to you as a sign of the grace of God, and for the understanding of Holy Scripture." The Elder wanted to leave, but Bartholomew asked him to visit at the home of his parents. His parents received their guest with joy and offered him their hospitality.

The Elder replied that it was proper to partake of spiritual nourishment first, and he bade their son to read the Psalter. Bartholomew began to read, and his parents were amazed at the change that had occured with their son. In parting, the Elder prophetically said of St Sergius, "Your son shall be great before God and the people. He shall become a chosen habitation of the Holy Spirit."

After this the holy child read without difficulty and understood the contents of books. He became immersed in prayer with a special fervor, not missing a single church service. Already in childhood he imposed upon himself a strict fast. He ate nothing on Wednesdays and Fridays, and on the other days he sustained himself on bread and water.

About the year 1328, the parents of St Sergius moved from Rostov to Radonezh. When their older sons married, Cyril and Maria received the monastic schema shortly before their death at the Khot'kov monastery of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos, not far from Radonezh.

Later on, the older brother Stephen was widowed and became a monk at this monastery. Having buried his parents, Bartholomew and his brother Stephen withdrew into the forest (12 versts from Radonezh) to live in the wilderness. At first they made cells, and then a small church, and with the blessing of Metropolitan Theognostus, it was consecrated in the name of the Most Holy Trinity. But soon, unable to bear the difficulties of life in the wilderness, Stephen left his brother and went on to the Moscow Theophany monastery, where he became close to St Alexis, afterwards Metropolitan of Moscow. (February 12).

On October 7,1337 Bartholomew was tonsured by Igumen Metrophanes, taking the name of the holy Martyr Sergius (October 7), and he started to build a new habitation to the glory of the Life-Creating Trinity. Suffering temptations and demonic apparitions, St Sergius advanced from strength to strength. Gradually he became known to other monks seeking his guidance. St Sergius accepted all with love, and soon a brotherhood of twelve monks were gathered in the small monastery.

Their experienced spiritual guide distinguished himself by an extraordinary love for work. With his own hands he built several cells, he carried water, he chopped wood, baked bread, sewed clothing, prepared food for the brethren and humbly took on other tasks. St Sergius combined the heavy work with prayer, vigil and fasting.

The brethren were amazed that with such severe exertion the health of their guide did not deteriorate, but rather became all the more hearty. It was not without difficulty that they implored St Sergius to accept the position of igumen of the monastery.

In 1354 Bishop Athanasius of Volyn ordained the saint a hieromonk and elevated him to the rank of igumen. Just as before, monastic obediences were strictly fulfilled at the monastery. With the expansion of the monastery, its needs also grew. Often the monks had only scant food, but through the prayers of St Sergius unknown people provided the necessities.

Reports of the exploits of St Sergius became known even at Constantinople, and Patriarch Philotheus sent to the monk a cross, a "paraman" (monastic clothing, a four-cornered cloth tied with cords to the chest and worn beneath other garb, and adorned with symbols of the Lord's Passion) and schema-robe in blessing for new deeds, and a grammota of blessing, in which the Patriarch counselled the chosen of God to organize a cenobitic monastery. The monk set off with the patriarchal missive to St Alexis, and received from him the counsel to introduce a strict manner of cenobitic life. The monks began to grumble at the strictness of the monastic Rule, and St Sergius was compelled to forsake the monastery. At the River Kirzhach he founded a monastery in honor of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos. Matters at the former monastery went quickly into disarray, and the remaining monks recoursed to St Alexis that he should get the saint to return.

St Sergius unquestioningly obeyed the holy hierarch, and left in place of himself at the Kirzhachsk monastery his disciple, St Roman.

Already during his lifetime St Sergius had been vouchsafed the gift of wonderworking. He raised a lad, at a point when the despairing father had given up on his only son as lost. Reports about the miracles worked by St Sergius began quickly to spread about, and the sick began to come to him, both from the surrounding villages and also from remote places. And no one left from St without receiving healing of infirmities and edifying counsel. Everyone gave glory for St Sergius, and reverenced him on an equal with the ancient holy Fathers. But human glory did not hold allure for the great ascetic, and as before he remained the example of monastic humility.

One time St Stephen, Bishop of Perm (April 27), who deeply revered St Sergius, was on journey from his diocese to Moscow. The roadway passed eight versts distant from the Sergiev monastery. Intending to visit the monastery on his return trip, the saint stopped, and having recited a prayer, he bowed to St Sergius with the words: "Peace be to thee, spiritual brother." At this instant St Sergius was sitting in the trapeza for a meal with the brethren. In reply to the blessing of the holy hierarch, St Sergius rose up, recited a prayer, and made a return blessing to St Stephen. Certain of the disciples, astonished at the extraordinary action of St Sergius, hastened off to the indicated place, and became convinced of the veracity of the vision.

Gradually the monks began to witness also other similar actions. Once, during Liturgy, an angel of the Lord served with the saint, but St Sergius in his humility forbade anyone to tell about this until after his death.

St Sergius was connected with St Alexis by close bonds of spiritual friendship and brotherly love. St Alexis in his declining years summoned St Sergius to him and besought him to accept to be Russian Metropolitan, but St Sergius humbly declined to be primate.

The Russian Land at this time suffered under the Mongol-Tatar Yoke. Having gathered an army, Great-prince Demetrius Ioannovich of the Don went to monastery of St Sergius to ask blessing in the pending struggle. St Sergius gave blessing to two monks of his monastery to render help to the great-prince: the Schemamonk Andrei [Oslyaba] and the Schemamonk Alexander [Peresvet], and he predicted the victory for prince Demetrius. The prophecy of St Sergius was fulfilled: on September 8, 1380, on the feastday of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos, Russian soldiers gained a total victory over the Tatar hordes at Kulikovo Pole (Kulikovo Field), and set in place the beginning of the liberation of the Russian Land from the Mongol Yoke. During the fighting St Sergius and the brethren stood at prayer and besought God to grant victory to the Russian forces.

For his angelic manner of life St Sergius was granted an heavenly vision by God. One time by night Abba Sergius was reading the rule of prayer beneath an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. Having completed the reading of the canon to the Mother of God, he sat down to rest, but suddenly he said to his disciple, St Mikhei (May 6), that there awaited them a wondrous visitation. After a moment the Mother of God appeared accompanied by the holy Apostles Peter and John the Theologian. Due to the extraordinary bright light St Sergius fell down, but the Most Holy Theotokos touched Her hands to him, and in blessing him promised always to be Protectress of his holy monastery.

Having reached old age, and foreseeing his own end six months beforehand, St Sergius summoned the brethren to him and designated his disciple St Nikon (November 17), who was experienced in the spiritual life and obedience, to be igumen. In tranquil solitude St Sergius fell asleep in the Lord on September 25, 1392. On the night before, the great saint of God summoned the brethren a final time to give them his final instruction: "Brethren, be attentive to yourselves. Have first the fear of God, purity of soul and unhypocritical love...."

Troparion - Tone 4
A zealot of good deedsand a true warrior of Christ warrior of Christ our God,you struggled greatly against the passions in this passing life;in songs and vigils and fasting you were an image and example to your disciples,thus the most Holy Spirit lived within you,and you were made beautiful by His working.Since you have great boldness before the Holy Trinity,remember the flock which you have wisely gathered,and do not forget to visit your children as you promised, venerable Sergius our father!

Kontakion - Tone 8
Bound by the love of Christ, O venerable one, and following Him with unwavering desire,you despised all carnal pleasures and you shone like the sun in your land.Therefore, Christ has enriched you with the gift of miracles.Remember us who venerate your most holy memory,and who call out to you: "Rejoice, Sergius, made wise by God!"