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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Last Things First: The Eschatological Community of the Parish


By Fr. Stelyios Muksuris

A danger all of us face as priests of God is to approach our liturgical ministry in our parishes with a lukewarm and disinterested disposition. Working long hours and late nights in the service of God’s people, accompanied by the stresses these situations typically bring, may often incapacitate us spiritually, even physically at times. This may lead to a mechanical, unconscious execution of the Divine Liturgy and our ecclesiastical services, the likes of which is not merely perceived by our flocks in attendance but, sadly, is also emulated by them and labeled as the norm for Orthodox liturgical life. We often urge our parishioners to participate meaningfully in the Holy Liturgy; however, the underlying question is: do we do as much?

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Secular Politics and the Eschatological Vision of the Church


By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

I think that the work and purpose of the Church is different from the work and purpose of the State and Parties. Parties are necessary in a democratic society, otherwise an oligarchy and dictatorship will prevail. Political and ideological divergence among Parties serves society, because in this way citizens can choose which Party expresses and represents their views before Parliament. The doctrine "words dispute with other words" is the characteristic feature of democracy, human society and all ideological systems. This is why there are various slogans at times, such as change, deliverance, cleansing, modernization, reform, etc., which circulate the objectives for the Parties purposes.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Prophetic Role of Mount Athos in the Contemporary World


The following is a paper given by the doctor of theology Jean-Claude Larchet (France) at the international conference, “Rus’—Holy Mount Athos: A thousand years of spiritual and cultural unity,” as part of the 1000-year anniversary celebration of Russian monasticism on Mount Athos (Moscow, September 21-24, 2016). It was published first in Russian translation on the website of the Synodal department for monasteries and monasticism of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Prophetic Role of Mount Athos in the Contemporary World

By Jean-Claude Larchet

Monasticism is basically a way to live the Christian life with a total commitment to renouncing the world and self-dedication to God. From this point of view, monasticism is the same everywhere, and each monastery, skete or hermitage is a privileged place, a center of reference for the monastic life and for Christian way of life. To a great extent, what can be said of monasticism can be said of Mount Athos, and what can be said of Mount Athos can be said of monasticism.

Yet Mount Athos has long been a fascinating place, which attracts the attention not only of Orthodox, but people belonging to other religions and even of non-believers. Evidenced by the large number of books and articles on the Mount Athos, as well as by the incessant flow of pilgrims and visitors from around the world. This fascination is not new, but it is surely greater in our time than in the past. There are several reasons for this.

1) The first reason is that Mount Athos is an autonomous republic—and for this like a country—inhabited only by monks and completely dedicated to monastic life. Although every Orthodox country has at least one region that includes several monasteries, there is no other country that brings together such a large number of monasteries, sketes and hermitages, and is an area ruled by monks, with a real border that delimits it in relation to surrounding countries or regions. It is a protected area not only politically, administratively and geographically (being a peninsula), but also spiritually, as Mount Athos is commonly called “The Garden of the Mother of God” and considered a place that belongs to her and where she is particularly present. In that it is a country entirely populated by monks, it does not allow the “free movement of persons” required by European laws, does not accept the influx of tourists, nor does it accept the entry of women, but extends the monastic enclosure to the extent of its physical, geographical boundaries. Mount Athos is a land like no other.

2) Secondly, Mount Athos is a witness to the Kingdom of God already present among us.

Mount Athos is a place that houses the most numerous and important relics of the Orthodox world. These relics make present, and active by their miracles, almost all major Christian saints.

Mount Athos, as a concentrated locus of monastic life and a place particularly favourable to sanctification, itself has produced thousands of saints, known and unknown. Some in our time have a global reach, such as St. Silouan, Joseph the Hesychast and his spiritual sons, or St. Paisios. Through its numerous saints of the past and present, Mount Athos appears, in the words of the Psalmist, as “the fertile mountain”, “the fruitful mountain”, “the mountain where it pleased the Lord to live” and where He “will live forever” (Ps 67: 16-17).

3) Thirdly, Mount Athos is a reminder and an announcement of Paradise.

It is not only through its saints, but as a blessed place, a sacred institution that Mount Athos prophetically manifests another world that gives meaning to the present one. Mount Athos, also called the “Holy Mountain” or “Virgin’s Garden” is an image of Paradise, a reminder of Paradise lost by our first parents, and a symbolic prefiguration of the Paradise promised to the righteous.

a) Mount Athos offers the image of a paradisal nature because in the variety of landscapes that range from sea level up to two thousand meters, where the summit of Athos reaches its peak, many plant and animal species live and are a microcosm summarizing the world. Another reason is that nature remains untouched, protected from economic exploitation and industrial pollution. Its very existence in the modern world has an exemplary value. It is a model of spiritual ecology; it demonstrates the integrity of creation entrusted originally by God to man for his use and needs, while making a means of contemplation and thanksgiving.

b) The space of Mount Athos reflects the heavenly space too, and foreshadows the space of the Kingdom of Heaven. Unlike the space of all countries in the world (divided between sacred and profane, sometimes even entirely profane), the Mount Athos area appears totally sacred, not only by the presence of a large number of monasteries, sketes, hermitages, churches and chapels, but also because it is entirely sanctified by the saints who went all over, have filled it with the voice of their prayer and diffused everywhere the divine energy they radiated. Every time we walk on a trail of Mount Athos, we are sure to put our feet in the footsteps of saints who have preceded us. Many places in nature retain the memory of apparitions of Christ, of the Mother of God or of saints. There is no monastery here, or hermitage, or chapel, or source or fountain whose presence cannot be explained by a heavenly vision or a miracle.

c) One must say a few words also on the prophetic significance of Athonite time. One of the things that has the greatest material impact on visitors to Mount Athos, and which to some extent disorients them, is the change of time. Most monasteries keep the Byzantine time, which no longer serves as a reference to any nother part of the world. Our time, the monks call “kosmiki ora”: the hour of the world. Byzantine time is not a mere relic of ancient times; it shows another modality of the time, a spiritual time, sanctified because it is entirely devoted to God, divided and organized to respond to His will. Symbolically it reminds one of the heavenly time and announces the time of the Kingdom.

4) A fourth important point is that collective life as organized across Mount Athos and in each monastery is a call for unity of all men, and a testimony that such unity is possible in Christ. In a world torn by wars, nationalism, ethnic conflict, racism, this testimony and this appeal are truly prophetic.

Mount Athos as a whole testifies for many centuries to the good relations of communities of different ethnic backgrounds who not only peacefully coexist, but live harmoniously in the bond of charity.

It is in this bond of charity that the Holy Community, consisting of representatives of the main monasteries, rules the Mount Athos not according to worldly democratic principles but in the spirit of Christian conciliarity (соборность). Each Athonite monastery provides a similar testimony, led by a council of elders that is headed by a hegoumen (abbot) elected by the monks.

5) As a fifth point, one must mention one of the fundamental roles played by Mount Athos in the history of Orthodoxy, which is today perhaps more than ever of paramount importance: that of maintaining Tradition and defending the Orthodox faith. This is still a prophetic role, because traditionally the prophet is someone who reminds people of their fidelity to God, and is a defender of the faith in the face anything that seeks to alter or pervert it.

In a world subject to increasingly faster change, Mount Athos gives the example of stability and permanence in the image of the divine world. Preserved from the thirst for change and the dizzying movement that occupies men living in the world, protected from the sociological pressure forcing compliance in all respects to the lifestyle of modern societies, the Athonite monks scrupulously conserve canonical prescriptions, liturgical practices and ascetic lifestyle that our Fathers have passed down from generation to generation.

The very scrupulous maintenance of the tiniest traditions was the condition for more than a millennium of perfect preservation of Orthodox Tradition. The Athonite monks also contributed greatly to preserve the Orthodox faith in all difficult moments in history when it was threatened, and they still do so today. And for this they receive a special prestige and a great authority.

The prophetic role of look-out and lighthouse that Mount Athos traditionally plays in the Orthodox world for reporting deviations from the Tradition and to remind the people of what is the true faith, is particularly significant in our time, when we can observe a considerable weakening of dogmatic consciousness.

6) A sixth and last point is that Mount Athos also contributes in a fundamental way, to maintaining Orthodox spirituality in an unchanged and vibrant state. This spirituality was elaborated by the monks of Palestine, Syria, the Sinai and the Studion of Constantinople, but the Athonite Fathers became, from the thirteenth century, its main heirs and depositories. Mount Athos has become a gold standard of asceticism and spirituality, and attracted many monks of all countries. When visiting or returning to their country of origin, these monks have contributed greatly to the spread of this spirituality. In particular, Mount Athos has always been a center for the practice of the Jesus prayer and hesychast spirituality. And it is always in Mount Athos that this practice has, so to speak, its center.

The Athonite Fathers have the task of communicating to people today this ancient heritage and a responsibility to pass it on to future generations. In this also lies the prophetic and eschatological role of Athonite monasticism.



Friday, August 31, 2018

Elder Amphilochios Makris as the Founder of the Convent of the Annunciation in Patmos


The Convent of the Annunciation, or Evangelismos, is situated on the southwest side of Hora overlooking the Bay of Kypos.

The convent started off as a small chapel with a hermitage, until 1613 when Nikephoros, an abbot from the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian, renovated the building and dedicated it to Luke the Evangelist.

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Miracle of the Church of the Prophet Elijah in Chernobyl


The only church in Chernobyl dedicated to the Old Testament Prophet Elijah is first mentioned by chronicles in the 16th century. Following the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in April 1986 the church was closed. Services in it were resumed in 2001. The church contains the revered icons of “The Saviour of Chernobyl” and of St. Nicholas the Wonder-Worker.

In April 2011, on the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia visited Chernobyl. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church served a funeral service (panikhida) there for the repose of the accident victims. The Patriarch then noted that the containment and stoppage of the nuclear power station accident “became a great moral feat for thousands of people” and called upon the gathered people not to forget the Chernobyl disaster victims.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A 9th Century Saint and Patriarch of Constantinople Who Disputed the Book of Revelation


In traditional icons of Saint Nikephoros, Patriarch of Constantinople from 806 to 815 A.D., he holds a Gospel book, since a primary task of a Bishop is to teach his flock the teachings of Christ. However, in his Chronography, to which is appended a list of the canonical writings accepted as Holy Scripture, followed by a list of disputed, or antilegomena, texts and then apocryphal texts, there is one book that is not listed as a canonical book of the New Testament that is normally listed today, but is rather placed among the antilegomena - namely, the Book of Revelation. He does not say why he places the Book of Revelation among the antilegomena, but it is significant that a Patriarch of Constantinople and a Saint of the Church from the ninth century rejected the Book of Revelation as canonical Scripture, and placed it among other disputed books such as the Revelation of Peter, the Epistle of Barnabas and the Gospel of the Hebrews.

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Second Coming of Christ on Mount Athos


The beautiful and detailed icon above is titled "The Second Coming of Christ on the Holy Mountain" and was painted by Elder Panteleimon of Kavsokalyva.

It depicts the future Judgement Day when the Lord will sit in judgment. Behind Him is Mount Athos, with the ladder of divine ascent leading to heaven, where the Theotokos stands on a cloud interceding. On the right and left of Christ are the resurrected monks brought to judgement, the righteous of whom stand at His right hand, having the Theotokos as their advocate. On the left hand is the lake of fire, prepared for the damned.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Last Things and the Kingdom of God


By Fr. Maximos Moschos of Mount Athos

It is characteristic and remarkable that St. John the Baptist preached repentance because the Kingdom of God is coming (Mt. 3:2.). Our Lord also preached repentance and belief in the Gospel because the Kingdom of God is at hand; it has come (Mt. 4:l7; Mk. 1:15). Following the commission of Christ, the Disciples also preached repentance (Lk.6:12.) precisely because the Kingdom has come (Mt. 10:7). And at the end of his public ministry, Christ directed the Disciples to preach in His name repentance and forgiveness of sins (Lk.24:47). That is, the basic point of the preaching centered around the Kingdom of God, and all the details had to do with how this Kingdom could prevail. The Kingdom of God has no end (Lk. l:33); it will be given to all those who would observe its prerequisites (Mt. 21:43). One enters the Kingdom of God after a struggle (Mt.1 1:12) and it comes quietly into the heart of the believer (Lk.17:20-21). Some of the prerequisites for entrance into the Kingdom of God are: doing the will of God (Mt. 7:21), spiritual rebirth through faith and baptism (Jn. 3:3-8), humility (Mt.18:3), a child-like attitude (Mt.19:14), patience in persecution (Mt. 5:10), sacrifice of possessions (Mt. 13:44-46), a greater perfection than that of the Pharisees (Mt. 5:20), love for the needy brethren (Mt. 25: 34-36), and finally seeking after the Kingdom of God (Mt. 6:33). The Kingdom of God is also called eternal life, which is the blessed and thrice-happy life in Paradise near our heavenly Father, but which begins in part from here and now. It is noted here that certain words have a double meaning, a literal and a metaphorical meaning. There are those people who are bodily dead and those who are spiritually dead (Lk. 9:60). There is the physical death, but also the spiritual death, which is the result of sin and the carnal mind (1 Cor. 15:56; Rom.8:6). There is also the natural life, such as that of the animals, and the spiritual life that comes as an added gift of God (Jn. 5:40; 6:53). He who believes in the Lord and keeps His word will go from death to life and will never see spiritual death (Jn. 5:24; 8:5l). Our Lord is the Resurrection and the Life (Jn. 11:25). He gives the eternal life (Jn. 10: 28). His words are truth and life, and they guide us to eternal life (Jn. 6:68). The obedience to His will brings us to eternal life (Jn. 12:50). Also, He who receives Holy Communion, that is, eats and drinks Christ through the Holy Eucharist, has eternal life (Jn. 6:54). He who believes in Christ has eternal life, and he who does not believe has the wrath of God (Jn. 3:36). Eternal life is the knowledge of God, which we acquire through faith, virtue and experience of the divine blessings (Jn. 17:3).

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Understanding the Apocalypse in Light of the Topography of Patmos


The Island of Patmos occupies an important position in the Sacred Geography of Christendom, but, unlike the other Holy Places, it is very seldom visited by strangers. There is no regular communication by steamboat. The inhabitants, even amid their poverty, do not turn the sacredness of the spot into a source of profit by organizing pilgrimages, and inviting the outside world to enrich them by paying for temporary hospitality, and for memorials of the journey.* The descriptions which have been published have been very few.** Yet the place is naturally of profound interest. The landscape, in any case, is that which was before the eyes of John. There remains, moreover, the farther question whether, during the revelation of the Apocalypse, he was conscious of surrounding objects in such a sense that this landscape was as it were the proscenium on which the figures of the vision appeared. The late Dean Stanley, in a beautiful passage in the Appendix to his Sermons in the East,*** seems to incline to such an idea:—

Monday, February 12, 2018

Homily on Christ's Second Coming (St. Gregory Palamas)


HOMILY FOUR

On the Gospel Passage Describing Christ's Second Coming 
and on Compassion and Doing Good

By St. Gregory Palamas

1. Last Sunday through the parable of the prodigal who was saved, the Church commemorated God’s incomparable love for mankind. This Sunday it teaches us about His terrifying Judgment to come, following the right order and in accordance with the prophetic sayings: “I will sing of mercy and of judgment” (Ps. 101:1), and, “God hath spoken once: twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God. Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his works” (Ps. 62:11-12).

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Great Judgement (St. Theophan the Recluse)


By St. Theophan the Recluse

The Great Judgement! The Judge comes in the clouds, surrounded by a countless multitude of bodiless heavenly powers. Trumpets sound over all the ends of the earth and raise up the dead. The risen regiments pour into the determined place, to the throne of the Judge, having already a foreboding of what verdict will sound in their ears, for everyone’s deeds will be written on the brow of their nature, and their very appearance will correspond to their deeds and morals. The division of those on His right hand and those on His left will be accomplished in and of itself.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

5 Reasons Christian Support For Jerusalem Is Not About The End Times


While some Christians believe there is theological significance to Jews controlling their historic homeland, for many the reasons are practical, not theological.

Luke Moon
December 18, 2017
The Federalist

It’s been a week since President Trump declared that the United States would finally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Unsurprisingly, Palestinian leadership called for three “Days of Rage.” Also unsurprisingly, some Christians have decried the move as Trump simply fulfilling his campaign promise to end-time-prophecy-obsessed evangelicals.

These evangelicals are supposedly in error because they allow their theology to improperly influence their view of foreign policy. Yet there are numerous reasons—political, pragmatic, and biblical—that Christians are celebrating the news about Jerusalem. Here I decided to limit it to five.

Friday, January 5, 2018

After 30 Years, Alarmists Are Still Predicting A Global Warming ‘Apocalypse’


Michael Bastasch
November 25, 2017
The Daily Caller

For at least three decades scientists and environmental activists have been warning that the world is on the verge of a global warming “apocalypse” that will flood coastal cities, tear up roads and bridges with mega-storms and bring widespread famine and misery to much of the world.

The only solution, they say, is to rid the world of fossil fuels — coal, natural gas and oil — that serve as the pillars of modern society. Only quick, decisive global action can avert the worst effects of manmade climate change, warn international bodies like the United Nations, who say we only have decades left — or even less!

Of course, human civilization has not collapsed, despite decades of predictions that we only have years left to avert disaster. Ten years ago, the U.N. predicted we only had “as little as eight years left to avoid a dangerous global average rise of 2C or more.”

This failed prediction, however, has not stopped the U.N. and others from issuing more apocalyptic statements.

To celebrate nearly three decades of dire predictions, The Daily Caller News Foundation put together this list of some of the most severe doomsday prophecies made by scientists, activists and politicians: